This needs work

My sewing set up since we moved is not ideal.  I’ve gone from having a dedicated room – small but with lots of shelves and several table spaces – to a corner of the family room.


I swing the gate-leg table leaf up when I want to cut or iron, sliding the boards back against the wall by the desk when I’m done.  It is a tight space, and looks messy when even a few supplies are out.

The storage space is also problematic.


I’ve got a hall closet nearby, with more stuffed in the coat closet, a couple of shelves in the office, and more still packed up in the garage.  There is no hope of a full quilt sized design wall that I’ve been able to figure out yet.

It will improve.  A few more shelves can go in the main closet, and I can definitely pare down as well.  Some shelves above the sewing area will help as well.

But nothing is going to turn it back into a separate sewing room, until a kid goes off to college.  And that is a good seven years away.

Still, I can sew, even if I can’t find all my notions yet.  (Maybe the good scissors are still in the garage boxes?) And I have a couple of finishes to share.

In July my cousin and I made small fused fabric quilt tops,  and this week I finished the two fish I made then.


The top one is about half the size of the lower one.  I added top stitching details on the bodies and fins and tried to make creek bottom pebbles and water lines with varying degrees of success.  The small one is going to my nephew who is crazy for fishing, and my Mom got the other one because she’s my mom and has to appreciate my sewing projects.  Also, her condo walls are still quite bare a year after she moved in, so she can’t claim she has nowhere to put the things I give her.

The first one I did I didn’t think through well enough and I had a multitude of thread ends to bury.  The second one I wised up and did the stitching with just the top and the batting so I just had to pull the thread through to the back but didn’t have to knot them all and bury them between the layers.

You can see what I mean in the pics below.  In the first I had all those ends to knot.  In the lower one, I just left them loose and tangled and covered them up when I added the backing.


The area works OK for these small projects but it is going to be interesting to see if I can wrestle with larger projects in that small area.  I may need to move to the dining room table for real quilting.

Much better!


The focus  in recent days has been continuing to unpack boxes – the china cabinet is now full – and bathroom improvements.

The bathroom in the master bedroom was clearly designed for someone who  didn’t share the room. While there was a door walling off the tub and toilet area, the sink area was open through an archway to the bedroom, as well as having an open space high in the wall, probably to let in some natural light.

The effect, however, was less light and airy, and more “Oh, let’s wake up the spouse trying to sleep in while the other one gets ready for work.”   I happen to be on summer vacation, so I don’t need to wake up very early most days. My husband on the other hand gets up around four in order to get to work on time.  The lights shining into the bedroom, not to mention the sound of the water running as he got ready . . . things had to change.

I think I’ve mentioned before that we are not handy people. I live in awe of my brother’s ability to remodel houses from the ground up. But we do want to improve our skills, and some things look doable even to us. So we decided that we could fill the upper wall hole ourselves, but that we probably needed a handyman to help install the door.


Other than a fairly bad job taping the edges of the new wall board on one side so I have some extra sanding to do, it all went pretty well. We were even able to figure out how to solve the issue of two different thicknesses of wallboard being used in the original  construction.

I still need to do the sanding, and we need to put the trim on, but having the door on the other side of the sink is making all the difference! Eventually we are going to take away the wall that is now in the middle of our bathroom, but that will wait until we can get my brother into town to help.

Next up was completing the hall bathroom.  My younger son has claimed this one as his, so he got a lot of say in how it turned out. Originally this was a very metallic gold room. The wallpaper was really strange, torn into odd shapes and overlapped. When we stripped it all away, it was actually worse as we found dark turquoise paint and a black pink and turquoise border that screamed 1980s.

The left corner pic is from the house listing photos.  Not a hideous bathroom, but not the right style to make a 10-year-old boy happy.


Who just papers over an electrical box?

Plus, this fixture had to go.


Friends, who will probably no longer stop by to say hi, helped me strip off all the layers of wallpaper, and then my sister came and painted the room a nice blue that my son picked out. (Actually I had to talk him out of gray – not a good color choice in a windowless bathroom in the Pacific Northwest where we get enough gray six or seven months a year.)  He also picked out the more modern light fixture to go over the sink, and we put up the world map shower curtain he loves.  (We all now know the capital city of Mongolia.)

The last thing my son and I did was go towel hunting. This was more difficult than I had realized it would be. Forty-seven shades of blue, much pondering, and several stores later, we brought home a stack of bright white towels. Not sure white towels is smartest thing with the 10-year-old boy, but it stopped the apparently agonizing choice of which was the right blue.  Not great with decisions, that boy.


Someday we want to change the vanity and the flooring, but for now I think it looks much better.

There was some sewing in between all the bathroom work.  I took down the practical but unattractive vertical blinds that covered most of one wall in the master bedroom and replaced them with purchased curtains. However, they were a little transparent, and that room gets some pretty intense sunshine in the afternoon. Since today it’s projected to be 103°,  more was needed. I got a three dollar cotton sheet at Goodwill and used it to line the curtains over the sliding glass door. Unfortunately Goodwill only had one white sheet, so the window curtains will wait until I get a chance to visit a different thrift store soon. But I can already feel the difference in keeping out the heat, and it looks much better than the vertical blinds did.


We still don’t have any living room furniture, and there are more boxes waiting in the garage, but it is starting to feel like we are making real progress on the to-do list.

Squeezing in fiber

I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot, but there has been a real gap in my fiber time lately.  I haven’t touched the sewing machine in nearly a month, or the spinning wheel, and the knitting has been pretty sparse as well.

The time just seems to be racing by and there are too many tasks.  We’re making a big change in our lives – really, our location – and it is exciting but also a major time suck.

We bought a new house!


We are moving back to Washington state.  Just a 30 minute shift north, but it will make a big difference in our commutes and put me a lot closer to my mom and sister.  So, very much looking forward to it, but also overwhelmed by all that needs to be done.

First a lot of spare time was taken up with house hunting, particularly weekends which were prime crafting time before.  Then all the mortgage paperwork gathering ate up most of our evenings.  And now we are getting the current house ready for renters while getting the new one ready to move in.  Walls are getting painted, fuse boxes replaced, decks fixed up.  We’ve had a tile floor redone, and popcorn is getting scraped from ceilings.  During all of this, some unexpected problems have erupted.  Plumbers have been here at the current house often enough that we’ve got a frequent flyer discount on Tuesday’s visit.

But it is coming together slowly and we plan to move at the end of June when the boys and I are done with our school years.

The new living room, without the grungy graying popcorn ceilings. So much better!

This all means, on the crafting side of things, that after weeks of blog silence the only thing I’ve finished is a brioche stitch cowl.  I’m just relieved I have one accomplishment I can point to!


The cowl is long wide enough to wrap around twice.  I paired two commercial yarns, one a multicolor sock yarn and one a single ply that I kettle dyed blue.  The edging is a simple stockinette roll, and the whole pattern was easy peasy.  Increasing the number of stitches cast on was the only real change I made to the pattern.


My first brioche stitch project but definitely not the last.  I really like how the two sides have different dominate colors, and it is a very squishy, stretchy result.  The actual brioche stitch turns out to be just as easy as slip stitch, another of my favorite stitches, so this one is definitely going to happen again.


In the meantime, with everything else going on, I needed another very simple project to putter with in odd moments, so I’m finally making my brother the hooded scarf he asked for, using baby alpaca yarn that a friend brought me back after a trip to Peru.  Absolutely yummy soft.  And while it is rather odd to be making such a warm project as we head into summer, it will be perfect for a bitter East Coast winter next year.





Rainy Sundays are the best

I love everything about fall Sundays – the sound of the rain, the gray light, sipping tea, curling up on the couch reading.

I interspersed a few accomplishments among the cups of tea and books.

My kitchen shelves are stained and up on the wall.


I made the first fall crockpot stew.


And I helped my niece start her second ever quilt – the help consisting of supplying all the fabric, cutting tools, and sewing machine.  She wanted scrappy, bright, and triangles, and she got all three.


I’m not in love with all her color combination choices, but she is, and that’s the important thing.


She dedicated the whole day to the project, cutting all the triangles and starting in on sewing the rows together.  I already see a big improvement in her sewing accuracy over the first quilt she made.



For an embarrassing long time (cough, two years) there has been a striped beach towel serving as a protective cloth on top of the dresser we use for both a TV stand and linens-and-cub-scout-gear storage.


That I stopped noticing it due to excessive familiarity is the only excuse I can come up with for letting it go so long.  (I’ll use the same excuse for the dust on the TV.)

But this past weekend I finally noticed enough to realize Something Must Be Done.  Some stash browsing came next.


The palest yellow was eventually removed as it was too close to the background color, and another yellow with gray was added later.

I attempted inserting strips at crisscrossing angles with varying degrees of success in matching the ends of previously inserted strips.  Matching worked well when a new strip crossed only one other, but I need to work on when two strips slanting in opposite directions are slashed and rejoined.  That didn’t work out as smoothly, but it wasn’t off by enough to really bug me.

I added the quilting without the backing because I didn’t want binding on the edges.  It went smoothly except when I sewed in a scrap of fabric that had gotten stuck on the back because I don’t keep a very tidy sewing table.

The backing is very plain because I didn’t have any other long yardage and didn’t want to piece anymore together.  No one is going to see the back anyway, though I did debate making it reversible for a brief moment.  Then I decided finished was better than reversible and sewed quickly on.

Then cutting angled corners, a quick flip right side out, some top stitching around the edges and the striped towel is gone from the living room.

A couple of additional notes:

  1. On the wall behind the TV is a appliquéd quilt I bought in Egypt.  I wish I’d gotten 20 of them, they were each so wonderful.
  2. Only now that the runner is done do I notice that the colors I chose are entirely 1970s appliance colors.  It is my childhood kitchen reincarnated!




Living room improvements

A long desired goal was met today with the addition of two solatube skylights to my living room and the connected hall. These have always been the darkest parts of our main floor, and adding the solatubes has been on my wish list since we moved in two years ago. And today they were installed!

There are actual shadows in my living room!
There are actual shadows in my living room!
The hall light, in progress - this one has a build in light fixture.
The hall light, in progress – this one has a built-in light fixture.

It makes such a difference – I don’t feel like I need the lamps on in the middle of the day.

One more improvement was made to the room.  I used some scrap fabric from my prints and neutrals bins and made a pillow for the couch.  For the prints I mostly used little bits from the flying geese quilt so they’d coordinate.  The neutrals tie it into the other couch quilt, so it works with both of them.

It is now on the couch, with a guardian cat to make sure no children spill food on it.


A new duvet cover

My room decor is mainly black and white.  Last year I got a duvet cover but I’ve never been that fond of it.  It was a budget choice rather than what I really wanted.  This is the cover we’ve been using.  Nothing wrong with it, but I don’t love it, and it is a little more floral than my husband would prefer.

Duvet cover

Now that I am gainfully employed, I decided to sew one that I would like better.  I waited until one of the fairly regular Fabric Depot sales happened and got this stack of black and white fabrics:

Black and white fabric for duvet

I ended up deleting the mini polka dots from the project, but all the others made it in.

This was my original design plan (I lost the pencil half way thru somewhere in the piles of fabric in the craft room.  I have entirely too many projects going on right now!) –

Duvet design plan

Not the most formal of designs, but the general idea was one long strip of the main fabric – the circles -with different width blocks of the other fabrics on either side.

Duvet cover in progress

But when I got the three main center strips sewed together, I didn’t like it. The center one fabric strip just looked weird and the whole thing didn’t balance.  I neglected to take a picture of it, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

I went back to the cutting table and slashed and sliced and added new columns and halved others.  I like the results much better than the original plan.  I’d started out with French seams to prevent it from getting ragged in the wash – it made for a lot of extra sewing once I added in all the extra pieces!

Duvet cover in progressAs I sewed I laid the strips out on my bed to make sure that none of the prints touched the same fabric in the next colum.

In this pic you can see the five fabrics I used.  Two are batiks and three are regular prints.

Duvet cover fabrics

The backing fabric is still in the mail – I ordered a gray and white wide backing fabric – so it won’t get finished today, but it is already an improvement on the former cover.

Different kinds of crafting

Sliding glass doorMy siblings and I all are handicrafters in very different ways.  I’m the fiber girl, making my crafts with yarn and fabric.  My sister is more paper and paints.

And then there is my brother.  He is the builder.  When he isn’t busy with his regular job (he’s the only non-teacher in the family as a captain in the Navy) he likes to do construction.  In his “spare” time he rips the roofs off houses and adds another level, puts in bathrooms where there were none, and adds new wings to the sides of houses.  While my idea of a weekend plan is to finish quilting a couch throw, his is to build a retaining wall and a fully insulated shed.

My sister and I frequently lament together about how wonderful our houses would be if he didn’t insist on living clear on the other side of the continent.  Two of my most frequently stated desires have been to put a sliding glass door to my back deck, and a side gate in the fence so we could put the utility trailer beside the house instead of the garage.


For a wonderful birthday surprise, my mom and my sister arranged to fly my brother in for a long weekend!  I got home from work on Thursday and there he was!  It was the first time I’ve seen him in two years.  Lots of hugging.

And then came the rest of the treat.  We raced off to Home Depot that evening and got the door they had already arranged and the dismantling and installing began right away until it was too dark to continue.


My sister took the next day off and, one table saw purchase later, the two of them got all the trimming and caulking finished.  I just have a little painting left but we have a fully functioning slider now, letting in so much light.  And even better, the French doors are no longer there to bang into the dining table and chairs every time my children run in and out (conservatively, a thousand times a day).  And a screen door!  Breezes without bugs!

image There was also eating birthday cake.  That kept me and the boys busy while the others sawed and hammered.

Boys and birthday cake

And they kept going.  With the kids and my husband helping they took off the narrow section of fencing at the side of our house, my brother whipped up a gate, and we can now squeeze our useful but annoyingly long utility trailer alongside the house rather than taking up every inch of space in our single car garage.

Gate building image image

Much garage organizing is in my future, and I’m so happy about that!

My sister, brother and Mom are fabulous, and it was a terrific birthday surprise.

Take the power tools away from me

When we moved into our current house almost two years ago, we needed additional storage, and a TV stand, so I bought an unfinished dresser.  Also, a coffee table and book cases, but those I finished long ago.  The dresser remains unstained, mostly because I can always come up with something else to do on nice days.

It also hasn’t had drawer knobs, because I didn’t like the originals and got rid of them and then never found what I wanted to replace them with.  And then a recent trip to IKEA resulted in just the right long bar pulls.

Dresser with new pulls

For some reason, probably having to do with Sweden and the metric system, the pulls were just slightly too short, by less than a quarter inch, to fit the pre-drilled holes.  No problem.  I could drill new holes.

Drilling new holes in the dresser

But it then it turned out that the screws were also too short, probably because these pulls were intended for thinner cupboard doors, and the longest screws of that size at the hardware store were still a little short.  And they didn’t have enough of them, probably to do with the metric system again according to the clerk, so we’d have to special order some.

The screws, both original and longer-but-still-too-short versions.
The screws, both original and longer-but-still-too-short versions.

Having waited a year and a half to get handles, suddenly waiting any longer was unbearable.  It dawned on me that I could use a very large drill bit to sink the screws in deeper, making them long enough.  What didn’t dawn on me is that I have few skills with drills, and my ability to judge the depth of a drilled hole while drilling upside down in a drawer at an awkward angle is pretty non-existent.

I ended up with too shallow holes, too deep holes, too wide holes, and weirdly warped holes. I had to find ways to make suddenly too long screws shorter so the handles would fasten tightly, which involved rubber bands and bits of buttons and the occasional nut when I could find one the right size. I had to keep changing between small and giant drill bits, got saw dust everywhere, and kept losing  screwdrivers until I had four of them underfoot. The insides of the dresser drawers are not pretty.

This was my most creative endeavor to make a screw fit after I accidently drilled all the way through the drawer with the giant drill bit.  All I had that would hold it was a pried off part of a button.
This was my most creative endeavor to make a screw fit after I accidently drilled all the way through the drawer with the giant drill bit. All I had that would hold it was a pried off part of a button.

But we have handles now!  And someday I will actually get the dresser stained.  And make a runner, because that beach towel is sort of embarrassing if I want to call myself a quilter.  And no one looks at the inside of drawers anyway, right?

Dresser drawer pulls

Meanwhile, since this is a fiber crafting blog, to keep me company my sister was embroidering trees and zombies.


Embroidered zombies