This is my first post from my new iPhone :) and it’s certainly trickier than I thought it would be.

My first craft since I got it was this sweet little carrying case while I waited for my hard case to arrive in the mail. The classic 10 min project including cutting. It’s on piece sewn up the sides and lined in felt. The only thing I would do differently if I made it again would be to add some template plastic similar sturdy materiL to one side so it would retain its shape better when the phone is out of the case. Is it wrong that I like this much more than the purchases one? Unfortunately it wouldnt protect it much in a fall. :(

This is what my lovely sewing room looked like Sunday  morning–sort of a pretty pale blue swath of felt barf all over my sewing room. Yards of it. Why you ask?

My sweetest bunny is turning 8 next month. 8. Do you know how old that feels? Well, I’ll tell you–it feels a heck of a lot older than 7.

Work has been slow lately (yeah!!), so I’ve been taking advantage of that and getting ahead on projects. One of those projects is prepping for bunny’s birthday party. She has always chosen her own theme, rarely, if ever guided by me. Sometimes they leave me sweating (like “Strawberry”–um, baby, what about strawberries I ask her cute almost 4 year old self only to receive a puzzled look in return). We’ve done strawberries, tea party, golden ticket party, garden party (which, is, most assuredly, different than tea party) and now, wait for it–Dance Party. All I know is that there must be freeze dancing ;)

We are still at that lovely age where her party can be all girls. And for that, I thank my lucky stars because, at least Bunny and her friends, will happily craft 30-45 minutes away if I have something good planned. Enter the annual, birthday craft. This year, I decided (what was I thinking????) that I would make felt poodle skirts and the girls could cut and glue poodles onto the skirts. But then, as I was purchasing the felt (thank you Joann’s $2.99 per yard off the bolt sale), I thought–what if the girl isn’t a dog person?? And aren’t dogs well, kind of hard to cut. See, the goal is for me to prep so they keep busy, not prep so that they glue something on and call it done. No, no. So, now, we are having “flower skirts”.

I made eight of these lovelies today. All sewn up, except I have a safety pin the elastic band so I can fit to size as the girls come to the party.

Then each girl will get a large square of felt in this lovely rainbow array of colors, scissors and glue. I’ll suggest flowers, but creativity is always welcomed. I have a feeling this won’t beat last years’ record of busy making where they literally BEGGED me to keep the craft time going (painting terra cotta pots). But I think they’ll like this.

If I’m a real glutton for punishment (and I usually am), I’ll make 8 blue felt head bands that they can also glue onto to their little hearts’ content.

It took me long enough ;) Part of the delay, other than I am a huge decorating slacker when it comes to doing anything requiring things like hammers, nails and a ladder.  However, in my defense, I had intentionally not put anything up until I decided (after trial and error) on the placement of the furniture first.

These are prints I picked up when we last were in France and did a tour of the Loire Valley chateaux.

The prints are oddly-sized, so long, long ago I got  a set of frames at Ikea that came with some “odd-sized” mattes. The problem was that the prints are black and white and the mattes were white. I hated it. The pictures swam and weren’t properly anchored. So, in a stroke of brilliance, I painted the mattes this lovely shade of blue. On a windy day, outside, without proper restraints on newspaper. So, it was a disaster. Smears and unevenness and, well, I let them sit for over a year and a half waiting to figure out what to do next.

Until today when I saw them in a cubby in my sewing room and thought: batting and fabric. Color. Lots of it. So, I whipped out ye old trusty glue gun and went to town. I think they turned out just lovely. And, since I was on a tear, I went ahead and put them on the wall… seriously, people. That had the potential to be another 6 months before getting done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, last weekend, I finally got my buffet of thread up above my machine. Happy, happy color.

I still have one naked wall, and some ideas, but I think that will take awhile.  (And I still can’t get a “gallery” of pictures in here properly.

 

I’ve been on a sewing tear–look for more in this space soon.

I should preface this review with the disclosure that I have always been fascinated by Jane Grey. I saw Lady Jane when I was about 12 and fell in love with the tragic love story of lovers dying over their principles (or at least her husband loving her enough to die for her principles). I couldn’t help but wish for most of the story that Edward Tudor had somehow lived. Of course, he didn’t and he was persuaded in his last days that neither of his half sisters (to become Queen Catherine and Queen Elizabeth I) could be queen. And that somehow his very well-educated cousin Jane Grey would be the ideal replacement (skipping the right of her mother Francis to become queen, which I also never understood).  This book tracks the circumstances and tragic decisions that forced the tragic ends of all three of the Grey sisters.

Leanda de Lisle is clearly an excellent researcher and writes with enough detail to captivate you through the entire story. She focuses in turn on each sister. The portrayal of Jane was different than the previous portrayals I had read or seen.  De Lisle really focuses on Jane’s education and deliberate upbringing in the new protestant faith. She seems resolute but not at all in a puppeted way. I didn’t see any hesitation or have a feeling that she ever questioned why she should be queen. Very fascinating reading.

I had never paid much attention to the second Grey sister who Elizabeth I and Catherine saw as a threat. So virtually all of the information I read related to her and later Mary, the last of the sisters was new to me. The author did a great job reviewing journals letters and the like. I never realized just how much fortune depended on becoming and remaining in the queen’s good favor–the grey family struggled with making ends meet after Jane’s death off and on as Catherine and Elizabeth in turn felt threatened. The queens each held a strangle hold over the future of both of the remaining Grey sisters–even trying to control if they ever married (creating the next male heir rendered either Grey sister extremely dangerous with the preference for male rulers at the time).

If you’re at all interested in the Tudor era, I would recommend this highly.

It seems I am forever qualifying my reviews, doesn’t it. Well a qualifier here, or perhaps two: 1–it took me nearly 2 months to finish this puppy (and I thought about abandoning it several times, but then I’d read a chapter and get sucked back in), and 2–I have a serious level of jealousy toward Penman and her success (she too was a lawyer (tax, of all horrible things!)–and now, lucky girl, she never has to be again!).

Shannon Penman is a terrific writer. Read a chapter, just one, close your eyes and take the tiniest effort and you will be able to vividly imagine that you are there. Being able to paint so well with words though has its drawbacks–neither she nor her editor could imagine cutting much of the over 700 page beast that is Here Be Dragons. The first significant chunk of the book, maybe up to 1/4 or even 1/3 of the book takes place before the two main characters meet. The book is supposed to be about the love story between Bad King John’s bastard daughter Joanna and Llewelyn the Great of Wales. And it is a lovely story, and it doesn’t cheat you on the love story between them, the angst and agony of Joanna’s love being split between her father and husband. But it does go on and on and on and on.

I think part of the reason why I kept putting it down was utter frustration with Joanna–she was so utterly undeserving of Llewelyn. While he wasn’t a perfect husband, he was certainly for more understanding of her fits, childishness, and the million times she stabbed him in the back to try and do right by her father. I think she was in a complicated position but she was one of those horribly misguided souls who forever seemed to be making wrong decisions out of selflessness for her love of those around her, but when  you really step back and look at it, she was ridiculously selfish. Had the book been half its size, I might not have been so disenchanted with her by the end.

Speaking of the end, I felt a bit on the cheated side. After a seemingly almost impossible reconciliation between the two — it skips a few years, and then they die. I wanted to reach into the book and shake someone.

Despite the great talent Penman has, I doubt I will read anything else by her. At least not until I’m in retirement and have all the time in the world to read books that, while good, do go on, and on, and on.

Five years, I say. You ask, so “where’s the short cut”? They’re throughout the quilt you see. And the cumulative nature of all of the supposed short cuts made a project that could never end and that I despised working on… right down to binding the blasted thing. Here is a list of the mistakes I made and the “short cuts” thought I was taking to fix them–which resulted in more mistakes–which resulted in more shortcuts–lather rinse repeat.

  • Picked a pattern and cut pieces over several weeks as I had time–at some point I started making my cuts not from the instructions but by looking on what I cut in the last cutting session. Which evidently at some point I had screwed up on, so the blocks were no longer going to be proportional for the pattern I had wanted.
  • No biggie, right, take what I have, sew it up and see what we’ve got. But when you don’t know where you’re going, sewing up it a wee bit more challenging.
  • Stop sewing and start arranging the mismatches and decide on what I’m doing.
  • Re-sew several not comporting with my new plan. Finish sewing the rest.
  • Lay them out. Have my then four-year old insist that she wants the squares arranged a certain way. Detest the layout. Detest the red. Detest that fact that I had long ago destashed all of the fabrics that made up the pieces I was using–no extras, so use what I have. Detest the Red.
  • Sew together. In incorrect order, evidently without precision in my 1/4 inch seam. Sigh. Unpick, re-sew. Do this 3 times over the course of a year and a half while I’m in law school.
  • It’s together. Hooray. Let’s slap some borders on it. Let’s play it by ear. Let’s take my then 5-year-old to the quilt shop and as I’m looking at fabric, in innocence answer her when she asks what we are looking for. She has a decided opinion. I hated the fabrics she wanted then. One of them I’m still lukewarm on but it actually goes well with the quilt. The polka dots I originally hated–too bright! I love now.
  • Slap them on the quilt, study it and think–I don’t think that’s square.
  • Bring then 6-year-old daughter to get backing fabric–have her insist on some unplanned for flannel on the back with monkeys and other critters. See the quilt that could have lasted her until her teens now have a more childish shelf life. Buy–just enough. (See the monkeys under this other blanket??? At my old house even!)
  • Sigh. Extra sigh. Still be living in our postage stamp sized place and decide to baste it with 505 spray on an autumn afternoon on our porch. With dead leaves swirling everywhere. With dead leaves falling onto the 505′ed areas as I struggle to get the layers squared. After a particularly huge gust of wind, decide that it is “good enough”. Realize later when I go to quilt it that the backing is too small on one side. Decide we’ll cut the borders down to match later.
  • Start quilting one afternoon in our postage stamp sized house–even with my fancy new machine, the quilt is hanging over the edges of my sewing table in a way that is pulling on the needle as the fabric is going through. Try stippling though it’s been years and years since I did any. Disaster. Disgust. Roll it back up and put it in a tub.
  • Move.
  • Have phenomenal sewing room. Have unsightly tub that won’t close because the quilt is in it.
  • Decide to quilt it. Unbloody pick the bit of stipple I did and instead try Oh Franson’s loopy flowers. But on my quilt they’re “sloppy flowers”. Have my 14-year-old niece comment that it’s so cool I wasn’t fussy and making them look exactly perfect because that wouldn’t look cool. Right. I totally planned that. Go to Oh Franson’s tutorial a few times and covet her ability to make things look like she didn’t freehand. Remember to do some half flowers falling off the borders so it looks like they extend to the edges of the quilt. Get tired of making the flowers pretty fast. Do them a little too far apart.
  • Finish quilting and remember to cut the borders… by just over an inch on most sides–effectively destroying the half flowers I had made in the prior step.
  • Take purchased bias binding strips I’ve never used before (I have historically always rolled my own). Pin it on, discover that I’m roughly 30 inches too short. Since I didn’t roll my own–I don’t have any of this fabric to make more from. Sigh. Decide it will be a whimsy (which I hate) corner with interest and use a different fabric. Spend a bazillion years and unpicking time before I admit that I no longer remember how to sew down binding or mitered corners  before I get a book out say “Ooooooohhhhh!” and finish. Stay up late on a work night hand sewing it down. Throw in laundry. Have it NOT bunch up all crinkly and lovely.
  • But have the child loves it just the same.
  • Feel like a free woman out from under the weight of unfinished project.
  • Turn to baby blanket I MUST finish!

The folks over at Whipstitch are offering an online sewing class on knits beginning October 4. This is my first online class, but if you read the class description, materials, guest speakers, resources for getting questions answered, it sounds like it’s going to be a lulu of a starting class for me.

Anyone signing up before the stroke of midnight (eastern??) gets a $10 rebate! Join in and conquer your fear of knits!

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