Friday, August 28, 2009

In Which I Show the Rotary Cutter Who's Boss

Hello, bloggy peeps! Sorry for the long absence after leaving you with shots of my mangled finger. (I have to admit that after all the blood stopped gushing, it clearly wasn't as bad as it had originally seemed. However, for a knitter (on a tight deadline, no less!) who uses that exact spot on that exact finger to help maneuver things, it has been pretty annoying.) Thankfully, I have been able to retrain my hand to knit just fine while holding that finger out of the way. It makes little everyday things annoying though--like typing and flossing and all that fun stuff. But my youngest sister (a 9 year old newbie knitter) was kind enough to knit up a squooshy finger cover for me and send it in the mail. Isn't it cute? She "discovered" seed stitch all by herself and has been whipping out these little thimbles/finger warmers/finger covers. Mine comes in handy because it keeps me from bumping my finger into things. :)

As long as my finger was on the mend, I was not about to let the rotary cutter win! So after staring at it hatefully for a couple of days, I buckled down and tackled that tote bag. I spent all weekend (when I was resting my hands from their new way of knitting) sewing this thing up and I have to say that I'm very pleased with how it turned out. :)

It's a tote bag pattern from the first issue of Stitch Magazine (published last fall). It's lined on the inside and has two layers of pockets on the outside for storing all your sewing/crafting stuff in. I have to admit that I was afraid my machine's needle was going to break from sewing through all that fabric, but it held together just fine. There were a couple of mishaps, such as sewing both sides of the bag together at one point, but I managed to fix everything that came my way. There are a couple of mistakes in the pattern: they have you fold the top layer over to the inside way too far, and the instructions for the straps would end up only 1/2" wide if done as written. Thankfully, I had some spare brown fabric and interfacing so I was able to make new straps.

In knitting news, I received my lace yarn from MacKintosh Yarns last Friday and I have been working on the first of four shawls. Can I just say: Wow! This yarn is nice stuff!!! My first project is the Kiri shawl out of Rhiannon Lace in a nice deep pink color called Hibiscus. This is probably the smoothest 100% silk yarn I have worked with and it took a while to get used to. It's so slippery! But it is also shimmery and so light you wouldn't believe it. I'm over halfway done with the shawl and it has gotten so big that it takes about 15 minutes to do one row. I was complaining to my brother about how my progress seems to have slowed down so much now, but he sagely reminded me that I am still using up yarn at the same rate. Oh, yeah! Thanks, Pete!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The One Where Sewing Quickly Goes Downhill

Hello, all! (And a hearty welcome to my newest reader: Mom!) Thanks to everyone for their kind comments on my first sewing project. It was a lot of fun to make that tote bag, and I'm totally jazzed about jumping back in for my next one. But more on that in a minute.

First, I want to talk about my latest knitting projects (because this is a knitting blog, after all). I recently had the privilege of knitting up a sample sweater for Hannah Fettig's newest sweater design, and I finished that last week. I gotta tell you: this was the softest, cuddliest, most enjoyable sweater I have knitted up in a long time! Keep an eye on her pattern release because I predict that a lot of people are going to want to make this one. I'll be first in line!

In other fun knitting news, Hannah also asked me to knit up another sample for her, which I was more than happy to sign on for. And I also got asked by a hand-dyer to knit up some lace shawls out of her yarn. How exciting and fun is that?!? She's overnighting the yarn to me so that I can get started right away, and hopefully have at least one shawl done before she goes to Stitches in early September. Unemployment does have some benefits, I guess.

While I am between projects and waiting for yarn to arrive in the mail, I decided it's time to get back to my sewing. This leads me to my next bit of fabulousness: one of my super fantastic blog readers, Jacey, actually sent me a pile of fabric! Can you believe how generous and super sweet that is?!? Jacey and I have been commenting on each other's blogs for a while so we're bloggy friends, but I was still bowled over by her offer. Free fabric for the poor and destitute!!! What a friend! She even threw in some zippers and bias tape so I can practice with them. I can't tell you how excited I was when this package showed up on my doorstep earlier this week. Thank you so much, Jacey!

I got a JoAnn flyer in the mail last week, and you were right, Cookie, when you said that picking up another hobby was going to be trouble. I couldn't resist running out to get a rotary cutter (on sale!) so that my previously jagged edges can now be all neat and clean. (Just like the real sewers do it!) Enthused by fun fabric and new tools, I used a couple of free hours this afternoon to sit down and cut out pieces for my next tote bag. Things were zooming along, and I was wielding that rotary cutter like a pro!

Until... (If you are squeamish, you might want to stop reading now. I mean it.)

Well...first there was a slight bump and then a snap! and then a small spurt of blood on my pretty fabric. Then a geyser of blood which I managed to contain until I got to the kitchen sink. I had sliced right through the end of my finger!!! The snap was the rotary cutter making a neat and clean cut right through my fingernail. (Just like the real sewers do it!) Now my finger is bandaged up like a mummy because I'm afraid that even the slightest bump will dislodge the little wedge of fingernail that is so valiantly hanging on, or cause the top half of my finger to flap open. I know...EW!!! (Pictures at the end of the post. You've been warned.)

I honestly don't know what's so great about sewing. What has sewing ever done for me? I never bled all over my knitting because of a puncture wound! It must be a sign. Maybe I need to change my handle to "Competent Knitter, Clumsy Sewer"? I want to finish that tote bag, but the thought of using that rotary cutter any time soon kind of makes my skin crawl. And the worst part about it? I have to figure out how I'm going to knit lace at top speed with my mummy finger!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dudes, I Sewed!

That's right: I taught myself how to sew this weekend. Yee-haw!

I went to jury duty on Friday morning, but they chose the jury and dismissed the rest of us before lunch. As interesting as it would have been to serve on a murder trial, I'm actually kind of relieved that I don't have to. Besides, I have been able to enjoy The Brain's week off with him and it's been very nice. :)

After I got home on Friday, I headed out to Jo-Anns for some bobbins and to scan the patterns. I ended up getting one Vogue pattern for a wrap dress (which they say is Very Easy...I'll be the judge of that), and a bunch of random buttons that were on clearance.

Then, on Saturday, it was Learn To Sew Time! I still had the pieces from the tote bag that was part of my sewing class from earlier this summer. I ditched out after the second class period because I really felt that I would learn better by teaching myself. That meant that I missed the directions on how to assemble these random pieces of cloth. Hmm...

After playing around with some scraps of fabric to test the tension (I have to tighten the main thread tension almost to the max...I don't think that's normal), I dove right in. It was just a matter of sewing a couple of rectangles together, and then sewing the straps to the top. I had no idea where I was supposed to place the straps, so I just kind of guessed. How do you like my fancy-dancy "you-can't-rip-me-out-no-matter-how-hard-you-try" X stitching on the straps? Yeah, I agree: it could use some improvement.

Here's one thing I wasn't anticipating: I can't actually hold the bag open by pulling the straps away from each other. Not too effective. I'm sure I did something wrong, but I'm equally convinced that it could not have had anything to do with the two rectangles of fabric that I cut off the tops of the bag before sewing them together. They were on the pattern, but clearly they were just extra fabric that wasn't meant to do anything, right? Kind of like a third nipple. Off they came!

I was so super excited about sewing some more that I went back to the store on Sunday and picked up some sale fabric to make a tote bag (from a real pattern this time) out of the first issue of Stitch magazine. (I can't find a photo of the bag online.) I haven't had time to get back to my machine yet, but it will be there waiting for me when I am! :)

Oh, and thank you to everyone who left comments with suggestions and/or encouragement about my newest...craft? Skill? Hobby? I appreciate it!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Let the Good Times Roll

So...remember the jury summons I got a few weeks ago? Yeah, well, that's where I've been spending my time over the past two days. I have to go back for a full day tomorrow, too. They're doing the jury selection process for a case that is estimated to last about three weeks. Three weeks! That's a lot of time down the tube. But I'm happy to do it--it's rather interesting, and I've never been called before. I just wish it wasn't happening right now: The Brain is finally taking some much-needed time off next week, and I would really like to be around to enjoy it with him! But there's still a chance that before the end of the day tomorrow they will decide not to use me. I can't decide which I would prefer, so I guess either way I won't be disappointed!

No news to report on the knitting/sewing front. And if I don't check in over the next few weeks, you'll know why!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Roundup Continues

Thanks for all the kind comments on my last post--both about the FOs and about The Brain's pay cuts. I know we're not the only people going through this (not by a long shot!) so it's nice to hear that people aren't so jaded by everyone's problems that they can't offer sympathy or support.

But enough of that. In my grand tradition of exposing all of my embarrassing quirks and foibles, I have another story for you:

The Brain and I were invited to a barbecue at one of his colleague's places last night. It was to be a small gathering: three other profs and the husband of one of them. I have been working this past week on getting back into the habit of running every day, so I was quite proud of myself for doing my full workout three days in a row. "I went running for three days this week!", I told myself, "I'm going to look so slim and sporty at this barbecue! People won't even notice that I'm the only one there without a PhD because they will be marveling at my poise and the special radiance that can only come from such a healthy specimen of the human race!" ... Then we got there. Conversation turned fairly quickly to cycling (The Brain rides with a local club), then trail running, then triathlons. Turns out that everyone else present at the gathering could kick my ass in just about any sporty endeavor you can imagine. I wasn't fully deflated, however, until the (only other) woman casually dropped a line about participating in the IronMan competition a couple of years ago. You know, while also struggling through her first year as a faculty member. So she didn't have a lot of time to train. *gulp!* Yeah...I've been unemployed for over a year and my major accomplishment is that I went running for three days in a row this week. LOL!

Must. Set. Higher. Goals. :-P (Speaking of which, is there anyone else in the San Diego area who might be interested in doing some trail running? I'm talking super beginner stuff, not those crazy-ass ultra-serious groups who meet up at 5am on Saturday mornings and run for 6 hours straight. If you're also proud of running for three days in a row, I bet we could work something out.)

Aaaanyway, I wanted to continue with my roundup of things that have been going on over the past couple of weeks. Guess what...I got a sewing machine!!! I was browsing around on Craigslist a couple weeks ago, and I came across a posting for a sewing machine in my neighborhood. This woman was moving to a smaller apartment and didn't use the machine any more, so she was happy to get rid of it. She was only asking $30 for a Kenmore machine, so I emptied my bank account and headed over to her place first thing in the morning because I was worried that the machine wouldn't last very long. It was still there, and the woman even threw in a tote bag full of never-used patterns, batting, tracing paper, safety pins, etc. She plugged it in and sewed a few things for me so I could see that it works well. It's missing a few accessories, like part of the button foot thingie, but right now I am such a newbie that I don't think I'll be sewing anything but crooked lines for a while.

I'm super excited to learn to sew now! I need to get some bobbins and a couple tiny pieces for the machine, but I have the major hurdle over with. I just got a Jo-Ann flyer in the mail yesterday with an ad for Vogue patterns at only $3.99 apiece and the usual 40% off coupon. I'll have to head over there next weekend to see if I can pick up a couple of patterns. Next time I have cash, I can get some fabric. Little by little, I'll learn to sew if it kills me!

Speaking of learning, does anyone have any recommendations for learn-to-sew books? I have checked out a few from the library to do some comparisons. So far, I have the Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing, Vogue Sewing, and The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing. If you have any opinions on these, or any other books, please weigh in!

Oh, and if anyone can explain to me what the heck a "fat quarter" is and what you use it for, that would be cool too!

Sorry for such a long post! I need to post more often so I can avoid this verbal explosion.

P.S. A super huge thank you to Dana who, after I posted about wanting a sewing machine ages ago, actually offered to sell me her Kenmore for the cost of shipping. Thank you so much, Dana! Your kindness has not been forgotten. :)