Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Go green!

We have such a beautiful, unique, mysterious and magnificent world. Check out the aurora borealis photo to the right.

What can we do to keep our world as it is or help clean up what damage we've done?

Lots of people are talking about going green. The big three auto makers are certainly taking it seriously -- their future depends on it. But what can little old subversive stitchers do to make a difference? First of all, support companies who are striving to go green. And encourage clothing and fabric manufacturers to cut waste, not just the throw aways but the toxins that wash out into our streams and lands.

Most of all -- don't let the world unravel (a creative video you gotta check out)!

Let's go green! What are some things to think about or do within the next twelve months?
  1. Use products made from organic fabrics and organic cotton
  2. Cut down or eliminate the use of plastic bags for groceries and shopping by making your own totes. Use a sheet! Do as is shown in the photo and make a ton of totes from one sheet. Posh Patterns by Jackie's Designs offers a free bread tote pattern.
  3. Reuse fabrics for art quilts and utility quilts or whatever you can think up. Our grandmothers did this during the Great Depression -- we can do the same thing and probably do it better. Denim jeans make great quilts for example. Or scrap memory quilts made from favorite clothing. Deb's blog gives an interesting list of denim uses from pot holders to lunch bags and beyond. I just thought about denim pockets with backing and stuffing to sit under flower pots to protect your countertops.
  4. Use eco-friendly batting. Maybe Dream Green, Warm and Safe eco-friendly and fire retardant,
  5. Join the 'Use What You Have' program and take 30 days in which you use only what is in your stash, do not buy, recycle or use the odds and ends around the house.
  6. Make something out of rag strips. Weave it, knit it, crochet or string piece into usable art or wall art or just something usable. Tote bags, rugs, mats, dog and cat beds, placemats, you'll think of something.
  7. Use leftover batting. Check out these 101 uses that include everything from dust cloths to chink in drafty windows to fill around quilts you're mailing. Or maybe splice the scraps together into a large batting.
  8. Maybe not exactly green, but use your fabrics to make a charity quilt for a deserving, yet needful person or animal.
  9. Use vegetable tanned leather rather that leather produced using the chrome tanning method
  10. Make your exhibits and quilt shows -- green. For example do not sell or distribute bottled water. Reduce landfill waste by thinking about every aspect of the show from handouts to food service.
  11. Embellish your quilts with 'found' objects -- found in nature and around the house. That orphaned button or maybe even an orphaned sock!
And a few extra thoughts
  1. Sew and quilt in the sunlight. Or if possible build your life around the sun -- when its up, so are you, when it's down -- you could head for bed and reduce electric consumption.
  2. Cut down or eliminate the use of chemical fabric sprays and harmful or harsh or wasteful additives.
  3. Use eco-friendly dyes and dye techniques -- Susan Shie advocates this in every one of her classes.
  4. Quilt and sew by hand instead of revving up a sewing machine.
  5. Make miniature quilts to use up scraps or journal or post card quilts.
  6. Learn to make your own starch and dyes and glues from organic and environment friendly ingredients.
  7. Smile more -- it will brighten you AND your environment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quilter's Wishlist

I saw a Christmas wish list posted at Bella Online, but I have to admit her list said more about the quilter's deficiencies than about quilting. Or at least this quilter's deficiencies. A needle threader speaks more to my shaky fingers and poor eyesight; the iron that turns off automatically reminds me of my forgetful nature. And getting new scissors and teflon mats is all well and good, but if anyone wants to make this quilter's heart flutter, check below.

This is a selfish listing of just SOME of the fabric art I'd love for someone to put under my Christmas tree -- in no particular order.

Ruth McDowell's self portrait of Nude Reclining -- or just about anything that Ruth has made.

Virginia Spiegel's 400 Songbirds. I fell in love with this piece when I wrote about her and several other quilt artists' activist quilts.

Valerie C. White's
Sunrise and the Rooster and just about anything else she has made! I adored writing about her for Quilters World. If ever I feel down, I just visit her site and look at her quilts -- they always lift my spirits. Maybe it is the colors or the movements or a reminder of the fun I had writing about her.

Anything quilted by Karen McTavish! I love her style and her subversive tendencies. A quilter should have tattoos! Why not?

Eileen Doughty's activist quilts -- any of them -- and her Meteor Shower (shown below)-- any of her landscapes. Oh heck, anything Eileen makes I like and would love to find under the Christmas tree!

Well, it goes without saying -- Hollis Chatelain -- I fell in love with her Burkinabe Mother before many people had heard of Hollis.

Caryl Bryer Fallert. I'm almost afraid to write her name for fear I'll misspell it, but I can't make a wish list without her work on it. Anything, anything. But I did fall in love with her Feather Flower and Feather Study (among others). They rather remind me of Jacobean designs.

Jacobean reminds me of Mary Sorensen's work. I have one chickadee pattern on the blog and would be happy to see that hanging on my wall. But I also have fallen for her Persian Dawn Jacobean design.

Laura Schwarz Smith is new on my radar and I hope to find out more about this artist and her work. I particularly liked her Il Postino shown here to the left. Okay, I liked Imagine and Awakening and....

To look at more quilt artists and their work, Lyric Kinard has amassed a delightful list.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What your workroom says about you behind your back

There's truth in the long list of sayings about quilters and fabrics. You know at least one of those like 'she who dies with the most wins....'

We must amass fabric so that we have the materials we need to create. We need the pieces to put together to take our inspired ideas from mere thought into something we can touch and enjoy with all of our senses. So for most of us a workspace must include storage. LOTS of storage. Jan Krentz gave me a new love for IKEA when she gave viewers a tour of her studio at the end of her teaching CD "Jan Krentz Teaches You to Make Lone Star Quilts."

But the more we amass, the more we must organize or we have chaos. And that chaos eats away at our creative spirit.

On the DIY website, a discussion of the psychology of clutter reveals what lies beneath that clutter. It may or may not apply to you, but when approaching a new year, it is usually the time we decide to make a change. Maybe this is a change worth looking into?

Some things to think about when you look around your 'cluttered' studio or sewing space.
  • Clutter can be a manifestation of either depression or anxiety
  • Clutter can be a way to isolate oneself from others
  • Clutter is an act of replacing people with things
  • There is clutter and then there is hoarding
  • There is emotional attachment to things in that clutter
  • Clutterers are usually intelligent, educated individuals
  • Clutter hinders a productive life

I seem to work better in a space where I can reach out and find exactly what I need without search and rescue tactics. This first photo represents the type of workspace I have in my home. Short on storage and space, my room is decorated with stacks and stacks and STACKS that are even less organized than this space. In the spirit of full disclosure, we have downsized, a problem many people encounter. And many of the boxes in my workspace hold family items. Items that belonged to loved ones living and dead.

I need neat, tidy, inviting, pleasing aesthetics that soothe my spirit rather than irritate it. I immediately know which of these two workplaces would promote my productivity and creativity. Roberta -- I adore your workspace. So organized, so inviting, so full of everything needed to create. Diana McClune's studio gives me a case of the screaming green envies.

Real Sewing Rooms, a website devoted to home studios can help you find ideas to include in your own workspace. I particularly liked this site that shows organization tips and equipment. Drawer organizers, foot rests (sewing machine feet that is), tool caddies, stash drawers, visual ways to display yet protect fabrics, organization for rulers, and simple ways to make a room inviting -- some expensive, some not so much.

Recycling furniture and items for a new use, maybe in your future. One site shows using those old spice racks that never seemed to work in the kitchen. Now they hold spools of thread.

There is definitely a difference between a 'studio' and a 'sewing room.' But whichever you have, the needs are often the same and the basic need is organization for the materials as well as an environment conducive to creativity. Dreading to enter your workspace is your first clue that you need an intervention.

Maybe the new year is the time to work on your sewing space. Another site has drawn together several more sites where you can look at sewing spaces and get ideas for your own.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sometimes I just have to crow!

With an overwhelming need to knit, I needed a big project to make all of that knitting time well spent. I latched onto the idea to make slippers for grand nieces and nephews this year.

My frugal genes (and husband) thought it was a good way to use up leftover yarns. So I sorted through the odds and ends I've collected over the years and pulled out my favorite. It is a soft baby yarn with a glimmer stripe through it. I used it several years ago for crocheted afghans and they turned out better than I had ever hoped. The yarn worked up so nicely and the feel. Ohhhh they are heavenly soft. And they're washable! Dryable! I used two strands of the baby yarn and the afghans turned out so cuddly, soft, warm and luxurious. Why I hadn't thought of using baby yarn for afghans before, I don't know. It is the softest yarn, of course, and relatively inexpensive, so using a double strand doesn't make for expensive projects.

The slippers I made using that yarn turned out just as cuddly and lovely, but the sleeve with the company name and information was long gone. But today as I was ordering other yarn, I ran across this favorite. It is Bernat's baby coordinates. Bless their hearts for making this lovely yarn at such an affordable price!

The only downside to the yarn comes in unraveling a project. That glimmer stripe tends to knot up a bit and the yarn separates a little, but that little glitch is minor compared to the utility and feel of the yarn. The only other yarn I've so enjoyed working with is an alpaca blend. But the price won't allow me to purchase much of that!

I can't put my finger on the article right now, but I seem to have read that the Bernat company began with a knitter inventing her own yarn and is now she is one of the richest women in the world. But darn, I can not verify the info! It is a Canadian company, but so far I haven't tracked down much more than that!

I have had such luck finding great 'free' patterns online. It took more of a search to find patterns for slipper 'socks' that don't require a heel turn. I'm not a very experienced knitter and I haven't mastered the heel turn, yet. But I found a couple adorable (and not so difficult) patterns for tube socks that work quite well. This one "Soxie's Patriotic Spirals" is a joy to work on. Obviously I am not using the Bernat yarn for this project. My grandnephews are little manly men and require a more 'manly' yarn. The red is Lion Brand Yarn wool-ease, and the other is a leftover without label. I really need to keep better records!

And from the top photo you will see I made a pair of the traditional basic slipper that all new knitters are required to make. It is still fun to whip them out in a couple hours. A big pompom and they're good to go. Here's the pattern as old as time:

My Grandmother's Slippers
Size: Adjustable (children to adult)
Materials: About 150 yards each of 2 colors of worsted weight yarn (Color A and Color B).
Size 8 needles
Pompom maker
Tapestry needle
Gauge: 7 sts=2 inches, 6 rows (3 ridges) = 1 inch in garter stitch on size 8 needles
Slipper (make 2)
With 1 strand Color A held together with 1 strand Color B, cast on 29.

Foot portion:
Row 1: Knit 9, purl 1, knit 9, purl 1, knit 9.
Row 2: Knit across.
Repeat these 2 rows until garter stitch portion measures approx. 4-5 inches for children; 7-8 inches for adults.

Begin ribbed toe portion:
Row 1: Knit 1, purl 1, rep from * across.
Row 2: Knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches as they face you to form knit 1, purl 1 ribbing.
Repeat last row until ribbed portion measures approx. 2 inches for children, 3-4 inches for adults or until measurement of piece from beginning is 1/2 inch less than total foot length.

On last row of ribbing, decrease one stitch so there are 28 stitches remaining.

For pointy-toe version:
Decrease for toe: *Knit two together, rep from * across (14)
Next row: Purl across (14)
Next row: *Knit 2 together, rep. from * across (7)
Next row: Purl across (7)

For round-toe version:
Decrease for toe: *Knit 2 together, rep. from * across (14)
Cut yarn, leaving tail long enough for sewing toe seam. Gather remaining stitches together by running yarn through stitches on tapestry needle and pulling tight to close toe, then sew toe seam until you reach the garter stitch portion. Finish off and weave in ends. With separate length of yarn sew up heel seam.

If desired, make 2 large, fluffy pompoms, using both colors together and attach to top of slipper.

The baby spiral socks in the top photo (center) knit in multicolored yarn, took some getting used to. I never did memorize the pattern and I used double pointed needles in a size 3, and this was my first double pointed -- more than two-needle project ever! So I'm quite pleased with them.

The pattern, Juanita's knit booty pattern, I truly enjoyed making, but they ended in a bit of disappointment because the top needs more stretch to it or no one can get their foot in it! I thought about putting in a zipper! But it is a fun two-needle pattern that could be made on double pointed needles by someone smarter than me. It has turned into my "Cinderella slipper". I take it to friends and loved ones and have them try it on. If they can get their foot in it -- it is theirs! I hate to unravel or admit defeat.

More than you ever wanted to know about yarn and slippers, I bet.