Friday, February 26, 2021

Finish it Friday ~ Wavy Charms Quilt

This quilt began as a package of vaguely S-shaped charms my mom sent me several years ago as part of a de-stashing effort. I never got around to finishing it because: a) I didn't have enough charms for a whole quilt; b) I didn't have the original pattern piece to make new ones out of (nor nearly enough stash); and c) I had no idea how to sew wavy lines and get the resulting fabric to lie flat.

I decided to just let all that go and dive in. I made a pattern from one of the pieces my mom sent--this is a good way to introduce error, and indeed the new pieces I cut ended up longer than the others, but like the guys of the buildings and grounds crew where I worked the summer after I graduated from college used to say whenever someone started to get uptight about the imperfection of a small project, "It's not a f-ing piano." I'm not sure if I sewed the curved edges "properly," but I just kind of stretched and molded one piece to fit another and, when the two pieces were being recalcitrant, by using the occasional pin.

For the backing, I went with a romantic rose print, which I thought fit with the calicos on the front. I didn't like it at first and wished I'd gone with something more simple and monochromatic, since the front is so busy, but it's growing on me. Like the 70s quilt, I used fluffy batting and tied the corners, old-school style.

Even though almost no two of these prints would go together in any rational way, they kind of work as a big kaleidoscope of color.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Finish it Friday ~ That 70s Quilt

The first quilt top from this post, the one my mom started way-back-when and then passed on to me still not-quite-as-way-back-but-still-pretty-far is done! And don't you love the way the alternating rectangles and triangles make that cool diagonal pattern?

Since my mom got the original pattern idea from a movie about poverty and tragedy (she still doesn't remember which, but I still think it was along the lines of Coal Miner's Daughter or The Dollmaker), it wouldn't have been right to pay a hundred bucks to have it professionally quilted. And besides, tying is more appropriate to the 70s aesthetic. So is puffy polyester batting, which is all my quilt lady had in stock when I finally made it to her shop--she's moved way out to the boondocks (boondocks that are far away from the boondocks where I live), and she's downsized, becoming more of a longarm quilting service than a fabric store, which makes me no end of sad. But she did give me the idea of turning the quilt, which saved me the hassle of making and sewing on binding.

The purple part of the backing is a length of fabric I bought at our local department store--Reny's--way back when they still carried fabric, with this project in mind. I thought it had a groovy 70s vibe. Unfortunately I didn't buy enough for the whole quilt back. At the quilt shop, I picked up some plain muslin to finish it off with, but that seemed far too dull for this particular blanket. So I dug through my stash and came up with this orange that has an almost imperceptible leaf print. I had just enough to make two strips along two edges of the purple. I spent several TV-watching sessions threading embroidery floss through each corner and the center of each block, and voila! A bright, cheerful, totally cozy, ecstatically retro throw for those chilly evenings in front of the TV (yeah, a lot of TV happening these days).

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Dollhouse Updates ~ Tiny Carpentry Projects

I thought I was done with the dollhouse, but every once in a while, I get something in my head that it absolutely *needs* and I don't rest until I've made it come to pass. One thing I planned to add all along, was a desktop tablet--everything the writer/artist living in the house would need for creation. I had this piece of lucite-like material in a desk shape (something my dad brought home from work a good 40 years ago for me to use in this very dollhouse). It makes for an ultra-modern workspace. 

I honored that aesthetic with a lamp made of two buttons and a thin plastic tube (found in my "box of random things that might come in handy some day") and added a blotter (I don't really know what purpose a blotter serves, but I've always wanted one), a set of watercolors (piece of popsicle stick, painted) with a brush (toothpick) and a water jar (bead), a pencil (toothpick again), and a small book (paper, folded and sewn). A spool stool and a groovy rug make this corner of the attic bedroom the coziest little workspace.

For the other projects I've wanted to complete, I've had to take up carpentry--very tiny carpentry. First I gave the bathroom mirror (a piece of shiny silver paper that I'd added when the boys were little) a popsicle stick frame. Then, using some little plywood pieces (also from the "box of random things that might come in handy some day") and a toothpick, I built a shelf with towel bar for the wall over the tub. A fancy towel, groovy bathmat, and pair of shampoo bottles (glass beads), along with some seashells (every bathroom needs seashells so that bathing feels like a trip to the beach) and a cup (bead), finish the room.

My Fiesta ware-like dish collection continues to grow, and so the kitchen needed some more storage space (just like my kitchen in real life). So I built a little wall shelf (more little pieces of plywood and a popsicle stick) to go over the table.

A set of colorful mugs necessitated a mug tree (chop stick, toothpick, and button).

Here's how the kitchen looks in its current state:

Finally (but not really finally), another problem that corresponds to one of my own: the growing book collection necessitated a bookcase. I made this one with more pieces of plywood--they have an angle at one end, and I made use of this to create a dictionary-stand-type bookshelf--and a toothpick (to keep the books from sliding off the top).

I didn't think about the books being mostly dark green when I decided to paint it that color, but I think it works okay. (The books here are field guides to wildflowers, birds, and moths/butterflies, Pride and Prejudice, plus two "dummy" books that look old; in other parts of the house are Winnie the Pooh, The Night Before Christmas, a dictionary, and the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook--see the kitchen photos--which is a pretty good collection of essential books, if you ask me.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Book Stack ~ January 2021

Last year my book challenge was to read 52 of the books in my to-be-read stack. Not only did I not come anywhere close to this number, but my stack continued to grow over the year, because I kept ordering more books as a coping mechanism for dealing with the apocalypse. So I'm trying again this year: The stack on the right is fiction. I plan to read it "all" (there are somewhere around 30ish). I'm also not allowed to buy any more fiction until this stack is done. The stacks on the left are nonfiction. I plan to read the lower, front stack (as part of a long-term project I'm working on) and *some* of the others, but no definite number. The lower stack on the right is poetry, which I also plan to finish. (The very leftmost stack--basket and bag--are magazines I need to deal with; either read and recycle, pass on, or file if there's something essential I want to save within. Wish me luck!

I'm already off to a good start, having read five from the stack in January.

I *finally* read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, which is one of those books one should already have read, and one I've been *meaning* to read for a long time. And it's soooo good. Just really fascinating delve into the lives of these characters--four Chinese women immigrants and their four first-generation American daughters. The characterization is tremendous and the storytelling and atmosphere are wonderful. So glad I finally read it. 

I also read The Knocker on Death's Door, a mystery by Ellis Peters that my mom sent me around Christmastime in a box of books. It was a pretty entertaining read with a twist ending, and a fun old-style puzzler, with an omniscient, head-hopping narrator that you don't usually get these days.

Several of the books on the stack are collections of short stories. I think I burnt out on short stories during my MFA program, when that's all I read, because I almost never think of grabbing a book of short stories when deciding what to read next. So I've decided to assign myself one per month, and schedule Short Story Saturdays, to make sure I get these read. January's read was Waltzing the Cat by Pam Houston. I'd read Houston's first book of short stories a few years ago and didn't love-love it, but this one I enjoyed much more and I liked the stories better as the book went on...probably something to do with there being less focus on the main character finding a man.

While I was reading that mammoth collection of nature writing I wrote about last month, I got in the habit of starting most mornings with both a poem and a nature essay, so I kept that habit up and finished reading The Colors of Nature, edited by Allison Hawthorn Deming and Lauret Savoy, which I'd started in the fall, an anthology of nature writing by writers of color. I love how this book expands on the notion of nature to include not just the wild or pastoral, but also the agricultural, the urban, the compromised and broken, and it challenges the genre to not only praise and sentimentalize but also argue and fight for environmental justice and make seen the invisible people and pollution.

Coincidentally, I read Lauret Savoy's essay collection, Trace, which travels through different American landscapes, searching for Savoy's family stories and revealing aspects of US history that are usually ignored or papered over. It's a lovely book, quiet in tone but powerful in message, and one I expect I'll return to again and again to let the words make a deeper impression.
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