Vortex to Insanity

The title of this post is from a movie (video, in those days) that my youngest daughter made with friends when they were 11 or 12. Yes, they titled their film Vortex to Insanity. I probably should have taken this as a clue that the next ten years were going to be challenging, but instead I thought it was absolutely hilarious and have pulled that title out whenever the occasion warrants. (The next ten years WERE challenging, but well worth the outcome. There’s lots less insanity.)

However, a new kind of insanity has entered my life as I’ve discovered Twitter and Pinterest, and my already limited hours of creation have suddenly shriveled. Pinterest is a site where you can post photos of just about anything, categorize them, and then peruse others posts. There’s inspiration galore here, but one feels a certain responsibility to maintain one’s Pinterest boards as sites of interest. This leads to more hours online of sorting through amazing sites, blogs, etc., and drooling while looking through gorgeous homes, textiles, vignettes, scenery, etc.

And Twitter is much the same. I ping-pong between my “serious” sites (New York Times), photography (Light Stalking), lots and lots of fabric folks (too many to mention), comedians (Andy Borowitz comes to mind), a celebrity or two (Tom Hanks…John Cusack was too weird), and family and friends. In between all that I’m forced to tweet myself. It’s all fun, but I do really wonder how anyone gets anything done…I noted that Lizzyhouse is taking a month off from all technology and I can understand the need. Such a brave thing!

So with that whining behind me, I share with you a few more shots from last week’s Etsy post on Doris Montag and her amazing collection of tatting and crocheting. Read all about her here. I must say the comments on that story have been amazing…I love how much those items and what Doris is doing with them resonated with readers. Creating these intricate textiles is an insanity all its own, but certainly a more tactile and soothing kind of crazy…with gorgeous results.

A Book About Life and Yarn

Children’s book author and illustrator Michelle Edwards http://michelledwards.com/blog/has a warm and snoggly new book for grown-ups, A Knitter’s Home Companion http://www.prairielightsbooks.com/book/9781584799160. It’s a comforting compendium of projects, recipes, and essays about the ways that knitting fills the interstices of her life.

The essays touch on husbands and children, on home and giving, on relationships created through textiles, even Iowa City’s very own Home Ec Workshop; they’re universal in appeal, yet intimate in approach. It’s the kind of book that just makes you feel good about the simplest things in life, the kinds of things that occupy most of us each day.

I’ve gotten to know Michelle a bit, as we’ve met for coffee and discussed writing, or bumped into one another at Home Ec. She’s been extremely generous with her time and advice as I’ve picked her brain about the vagaries of writing and publishing.

So check out this lovely volume. You can feel good that a kind and clever soul penned it and I promise it will be worth your while to put down your knitting needles long enough to dip into an essay or two. Its ease and warmth will soothe you like the coziest hand-knit shawl.

Sewing in fits and starts

On my stitching radar for quite some time was the Birdie Sling I’d promised my niece Anna for Christmas. Since she’s in Virginia and I’m in the Midwest, I had her go to Fabric.com to pick out the three different fabrics needed for the bag. I had her do this well before the holidays, fully intending to have it finished in time for her to open it on the day.

Instead, Anna got a card with little snippets of fabric attached. (She chose a fabric from Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern 2 for the handle and two from her Lotus line for the bag interior and exterior.) And it’s taken me more than a month past Christmas to actually complete it. But I did a little bit over a couple of nights and last weekend and it’s done.

This is the second Birdie Sling I’ve made for Anna. Her first was a high school graduation gift and she seemed to love and definitely used it. Last summer she sent me a photo of the now threadbare bag, asking if I could repair it. I told her it would be just the thing for Christmas.

Because she uses it so much, I decided to use the fusible fleece throughout the bag, instead of just in the exterior layer as I’ve done with some of them. This is the fifth I’ve made (others are here, here, Anna’s original here, and here) and I’ve got an “order” for one more. Don’t hold your breath, Rebecca, I don’t seem to be able to whip these out very quickly!

Now my goal is to make sure Anna gets her Birdie Sling before Valentine’s Day! (I did throw in a little something to help make up for the delay…hope she remembers to check the pockets.)

Addendum: I’ve heard back from Anna, who not only sounds quite happy with her bag, but told me that her friends were “fawning” over it (loved that she used that word)! One of them even asked if I’d be willing to make her one, too. Very sweet, I must say, even though I’m not able to go into production mode just now.

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…

Feeding time
One of the most fun things about writing for Etsy are all the comments that follow the post. It’s very gratifying to know people are reading and that they’ve enjoyed what they read. This time around I wrote about how bird feeding evolved in the United States and I loved hearing from all the people who were enjoying birds at their own feeders, across the country (except for the woman from Georgia who has bluebirds at her feeder…that just made me jealous).

As always, I got excited by the research I did for the piece. Birdfeeding turns out to have a pretty fascinating timeline that includes big name writers (Thoreau), political policy (the Lacey Act of 1900, the first to protect bird and other wildlife), and 1950s suburbia (where birdfeeders were as de rigueur as cars with fins).

It also provides the perfect opportunity to share this clip from Portlandia. I haven’t seen the show in its entirety, but I first saw this courtesy of Monica over at Happy Zombie. I will definitely be checking out this show, soon. Put A Bird On It!!!!!

Stitching Knits

Sewing clothing has always been a frustrating experience for me, largely because of fit. I’m your basic straight-up-and-down gal without much of a waist. It’s that way whether I’m sleek or slightly plump. But sewing patterns never seemed to work for that body type…if the things fit my hips then they were too tight in my waist and if they fit my waist they’d balloon around my hips. (Except for shifts…anyone remember shifts? They were perfect for my body type.) My mom had some complicated methods for altering patterns that my math-phobic mind never let me grasp. So I quit sewing for many years, until my friend Anne taught me to quilt. It was perfect for me. I got to play with color and pattern and never had to worry about darts, set-in sleeves, or zippers.

But as time has gone by I’ve been intrigued by lots of kinds of sewing. And this weekend, I was brave enough to try sewing clothing again. I took a Sewing with Knits class at Home Ec Workshop with Alissa. There were five of us and it was fantastic…in four hours we all cut out and finished a long-sleeved t-shirt (and many people finished in less time). It was so satisfying, and I wore my shirt all the next day. Sorry not to have pictures, but I used a knit from Moda—a very springy turquoise and white dot from the City Weekend line by Oliver and S. It is so soft and cozy the color makes me think winter may eventually come to an end, something I’ve been doubting of late. And best of all, Alissa altered the pattern (a Burda pattern, I believe) for each of us in the class, so our shirts actually fit.

All this was exciting enough, but the new Stitch magazine has a fantastic article about sewing with knits, as well as some truly adorable patterns. I’m itching to try the Spiral Skirt. Check it out here. (The instructions are in the magazine.) And if this pattern isn’t for you, seriously check out the issue, anyway. It’s a real keeper, with explanations of great sewing techniques and tons of fantastic projects and patterns. I’m also seriously thinking about using my stash of Woolylady fabrics to do the cover pillow. And there’s a Malka Dubrovsky freebie pattern here. How I love her work!

In addition, there are a couple of short articles by yours truly in the issue. One about Collecion Luna, a wonderful endeavor that seeks to preserve Guatemalan  textile traditions while provide a living for families, and another about the New Dress a Day blog, where Marissa creates a new frock each day from an old one (and it can’t cost more than one dollar).

Yes, my name is mispelled in the bylines for these pieces…they had a new proofreader and as a former editor I know that these things happen. But they did get it right on the back page, where staffers and contributors were asked about their 2011 sewing resolutions. I said that one of my goals was to take more classes in the new year, and I’m pleased to say I did just that at Home Ec on Saturday.