FO Friday: more catch-up and a lot of sewing

Two weekends ago I was on a sewing spree! I not only made the iPad Gadget Guard I posted about last week, I also made two cross-body bags. That was a lot of sewing! It made me super happy!

First, though, let’s back up.

A couple weeks ago I discovered that our Joann had the new Doctor Who print fabrics in stock (apparently not to be found on the Joann website anymore – if you see it in your store, buy it up quick!). YES! I also finalized plans for the professional trips I have coming up and decided that it was officially time for me to make a Take Off Tote.

TARDIS Take Off Tote

I am SO HAPPY with how this bag turned out. I was a little unsure about mixing these two prints, but I feel like it really works. Also I will never, ever lose track of this bag because this print is not blend-in-able with any background.

TARDIS Take Off Tote

I’m really quite excited to use this tote! It’s spacious and has the outside zippered pocket as well as a divided large pocket on the inside.

TARDIS Take Off Tote

It also has this handy sleeve that fits just right over the extended handle of a rolling suitcase (note: this suitcase is the tiniest! It’s a bit shorter than your average carry-on suitcase). This will replace my purse while I’m traveling, since it can fit everything I need to have with me and is so handy.

That said, I still want a smaller purse to take with me to use while I’m at my destination. I was having trouble deciding between the Zip and Go and the Two Zip Hipster, so I decided to make both.

Grey Zip and Go

The Zip and Go is quite petite – it’s flat and has two zippered sections so you can separate your phone from your keys, or whatever.

Birds Two Zip Hipster

And this is the Two Zip Hipster, which is larger and has more pockets: a zippered pocket and a non-zippered pocket on the outside, as well as a large divided pocket on the inside.

Even having made both of these, I’m still torn! I love the streamlinedness and small size of the Zip and Go, but can I really manage with such a small bag? I think I probably can, given that I’ll only really need a minimal amount of wallet contents, my phone, and maybe some mints while I’m at these conferences. BUT I am so accustomed to carrying a gigantic purse with every possible thing that I might possibly need or want inside, and even the Two Zip Hipster is a LOT smaller than what I usually carry. My current wallet will actually fit in the Two Zip Hipster and leave room for other non-necessities, so I will likely end up using that. Maybe the Zip and Go can be an eventual goal for me to strive toward!

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review: The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden

We are getting pretty close to being homeowners again, and one of the main things I’m excited about it having room to garden again. Apartment living has been easy and low maintenance, but I miss being in the garden and the exercise I get when I have yard work to do. So of course I’ve been making mental plans for things I can grow in our new yard and how to lay it out and what makes sense. Aside from a few gigantic old trees, there isn’t a lot of existing landscaping to speak of (and what there is consists of vines and stuff growing directly on the house, so that will be coming out immediately as soon as we take possession) so it’s close to a blank slate, just waiting for me to do something with it. This means, of course, that I want to have a clear plan in mind before I start putting things in the ground. Part of that plan will be vegetables, which led me to finding this book: The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden by Karen Newcomb.

The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden

Having started some pretty ambitious garden projects at our previous house, I want to try to keep things manageable this time. I can always expand later! So the idea of a smaller veggie bed is appealing, even if it’s not exactly a postage stamp (the new house is on a double lot so I’ll have a lot of room for various types of gardens). A lot of the content in this book is perfect for the stage I’m currently in: planning. Taking the time to think about what you want to get out of the garden is useful in making priorities and determining what will fit well in the space you have allocated. There are some nicely illustrated example garden beds included here ranging from 4′ x 4′ to 8′ x 10′, as well as ideas for using containers instead of beds. There’s also some great basic information here about preparing your soil and other tips on creating a conducive environment for growing veggies. A large portion of this book is devoted to heirloom veggies and herbs, with growing tips, typical pitfalls, and other basic information. The final section is related information on companion planting, natural pest control, and composting. Good stuff all around! I’d for sure recommend this book for someone planning a new veggie garden, especially if that person is a newb to gardening, and I’m finding it useful myself as I plan for our new place!

Full disclosure: reviewed from a complimentary copy provided by Blogging for Books.

FO Friday: super duper catch-up

I have been so busy lately making things that I haven’t been making time to post about them. I also procrastinated taking photos of a number of things, which meant I had an excuse to not be ready to post yet. This past weekend I was supremely productive and not only made a bunch of new things, I also got almost completely caught up with myself.

First, let’s start with some knitting that I started what feels like AGES ago.

Crassula Shawl

This is the Crassula Shawl. I made this one up as I went along – I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted, but I’m 100% pleased with how it turned out!

Crassula Shawl

I started out with narrow stripes and gradually worked up to wider stripes, alternating colors between a grey and a really lovely variegated turquoise blue colorway.

Pink Fizz Wrap

Next up is the Pink Fizz Shawl. I named this one for the Hellebore variety that has a pink and white stripe-ish pattern on the petals. It starts with narrow stripes at each end, works up to fairly wide stripes and back down to narrow again, with quite a few narrow stripes in the center section. This shawl is also designed to be a sort of curve-sided diamond shape (there has to be name for this, other than being vaguely vaginal) rather than a traditional triangle shawl.

There are a couple more knitting projects yet to post about, but they’re gifts so they must wait to be revealed here.

I had last Friday afternoon off which made for a lovely long and very productive sewing weekend for me. I decided on Friday that I would finally make the Gadget Guard for my iPad for which I knitted some fabric nearly a year ago. I have a few professional events coming up for which I’ll be flying, and I may not want to take my laptop on all the trips, so I wanted to be prepared to take my iPad instead if I so choose.

You may remember that I made a Gadget Guard for my lappy last spring. I have been SO SERIOUSLY PLEASED with this thing. I use it all the time and it fits my laptop so well. The beautiful thing (well, one of them) about this pattern is that it uses a formula, so you can adjust it to fit practically any gadget. It’s super easy and is written so that you hardly even end up doing any math at all!

Knitted Striped iPad Gadget Guard

I was so pleased that my knitted fabric worked out so well! It adhered to the fusible interfacing really easily and I mostly kept the stripes going very straight.

Knitted Striped iPad Gadget Guard

I had to work in some nerdy fabric somewhere, so the lining is Star Trek – images of the Enterprise.

Okay! That’s it for this post. Stay tuned for next week where there will be more sewing and more Dog Under My Desk pattern-adoration!

I am so super mad at some fictional people right now

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the (old enough that it should likely not be an issue for many of you) China Bayles series of cozy mysteries.

Love Lies Bleeding by Susan Wittig Albert

So I’ve been reading this series and really enjoying it. These mysteries are cozy so nothing gets too gory, and they’re set in small, quaint town and feature a feminist woman who left behind the big city corporate lifestyle to grow and sell herbs, so they’re pretty much right up my alley.

I’m up to the sixth book in the series and pretty early in this story, I realized that it was going to center around a thing that I hate, which is a romantic misunderstanding in which neither of the parties will actually just say what they’re thinking/feeling and be honest with each other. This storyline is so tired and just not at all the way that life ever works in reality. Poor storytelling! I have so little patience for it. So that was disappointing but I thought, well, it’s one book in a very long series, the characters will figure it out by the end of the book and we’ll all move on to further cozy murder investigations with cute herbal puns.

NOPE. Serves me right for thinking I know what’s what, but it turns out to NOT be a misunderstanding, but some truly callous treatment of our heroine by her supposed true love. And she’s taking it! And not making a big deal out of it! When it’s a HUGE DEAL! CAN YOU TELL HOW ANGRY THIS MAKES ME?!

So, in addition to the not-saying-what-he’s-thinking (of which our heroine is also guilty, but that’s where the similarities stop), it turns out he’s outright lying to her. He’s taken on a job and instead of telling her, he lied and said that he was doing a research project (he’s in academe) while on sabbatical. And this job is super dangerous and involves him dealing with known murderers and drug cartels and YOU DON’T JUST TAKE A LIFE-THREATENING JOB AND THEN LIE TO YOUR SUPPOSED LIFE PARTNER ABOUT IT. And THEN, when she takes a vacation without him (really a spiritual retreat because she’s stressed out, partially because he’s not telling her the truth and she kind of knows it), he cheats on her! MULTIPLE TIMES. With some woman he’s ostensibly working with, who later claims that it’s all her fault because she seduced him. UM NO. He made choices and he is responsible for them! She’s only been gone for a week!

Even when she confronts him about it (having overheard him talking to the woman on the phone, ON VALENTINE’S DAY, no less), he still lies! He doesn’t own up to anything! And he keeps lying! And expecting her to take care of his kid while he goes off to do his stupid lie job and continue to spend time with his mistress. WHAT!! And everyone keeps talking about how he’s such a GOOD MAN and apparently this makes it forgivable for him to treat her like crap. AND they keep telling her how selfish she’s been that she hasn’t agreed to marry him before now. WHAT??!!!!

Things get worse from there, and I am so upset about it. I haven’t finished the last chapter or so of the book yet, but I will be doing so (angrily!) tonight. Even more than the characters being so shitty to one another, it makes me mad because it’s going to ruin the rest of this series for me. I will not be able to forgive him and I just know that everyone in the book is going to totally forget about this and he’s going to be the golden boy perfect man from here on out. Like, oh, remember that time when you TOTALLY LIED TO ME FOR MONTHS AND THEN CHEATED ON ME AND THEN YOU GOT A GUNSHOT WOUND AT YOUR STUPID LIE JOB AND THEN I HAD TO VISIT YOU IN THE HOSPITAL WITH YOUR MISTRESS SITTING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF YOUR HOSPITAL BED? NO? No one will remember this, because they are all not bothered by it at all. UGH! And I don’t WANT to give up on this series because it has a lot of other great things that I do really enjoy. BAH!

WIP Wednesday: spring is looking springy

My little art quilt is coming along! Fittingly, too, since it is really starting to feel like spring is on the way. Last I posted, I had things mostly figured out and pinned in place.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

Looking pretty good.

WIP: Regeneration art quilt

I then got the butterfly crown arranged. I ended up using a fairly limited number of butterflies because I liked the final look better than a more crowded crown.

WIP: Regeneration art quilt

Then I started to figure out how I wanted to handle the eggs on the tray she’s holding. I was thinking deviled eggs and was toying with the idea of some embroidery techniques to create the deviled yolks.

WIP: Regeneration art quilt

I cut out a bunch of tiny eggs, but decided I didn’t like the way it was coming together, and I had a brainstorm of another angle I could take. More on that next time!

WIP: Regeneration art quilt

I also got the flower blossoms sewn on. I’ll likely go back and thread paint some stems and leaves on them in a fresh, bright spring green.

I’m feeling pretty good about this project! Being on a deadline has lit a little fire under me, and hopefully that keeps going.

The Allergy-Fighting Garden

The Allergy-Fighting Garden

The title of this book grabbed me right away. A book about gardening, you say? For people with allergies?

give it to me now

The author is a horticulturalist with an agricultural science background and invented the scale by which plants are rated for allergenicness. Seems legit.

I learned quite a few new things reading this book, one of which is that male plants produce more pollen than female plants. THANKS, MEN. Also, back in the 1940s, apparently some (male, I’m guessing) brains at the USDA decided to encourage people to grow male trees rather than a mix of female and male, because female trees produce seeds, seedpods, and fruit, and those are too messy to be convenient in carefully-groomed communities (we’re talking about types of trees where the sexes are separate – which NOT ALL TREES are). Male trees also produce more pollen than trees with both parts in the same flowers, so this preponderance of male trees made for extra beaucoup pollen everywhere. (They, along with cloning, also made for a horribly heterogeneous tree population, so when things like Dutch Elm disease came through, it was way more devastating than it might have been. GREAT.) (Also, birds and butterflies like to eat, you know, fruit, so having no female trees means having a lot fewer beneficial creatures around. SUPER.) Back to the dearth of female trees, which, did you know? actually COLLECT and remove pollen from the air, in addition to not producing it themselves. So not only are these too-numerous male trees dropping buckets of pollen all over the place, there aren’t enough female trees to – what’s new, right? – clean up their mess. Okay, even I’m getting a little tired of talking about this Tree Patriarchy. Let’s acknowledge that most of the time when we decide to mess with an ecosystem, we don’t consider the possible consequences and we end up screwing things up in ways we never imagined. Moving on.

You might say to yourself, but wait – don’t we need pollen so pollinators can do their jobs? Yes, we do. This book is about reducing the most allergenic pollens, not all pollens. We’ve seen what problems an all-or-nothing situation creates, haven’t we? The most allergenic pollens come from trees and shrubs, it seems, so a lot of perennial and annual plants are probably fine for many allergy sufferers. Which is great news! Because pollinators love those smaller plants and we love pollinators. This book goes into detail about how to identify the plants in your landscape as well as giving recommendations for how to choose what to add to your own yard and garden. It also gives suggestions for helping to de-allergen your home space, such as planting an allergy-blocking hedge on the windward side of your property (really the hedge will be collecting the pollen not blocking it). I am all about a property-border hedge, so this makes me even more antsy for us to be in our next home and planning our landscape!

Most of the book is a listing of details about various plants. It includes their allergy rating as well as information about the plant and for some, color photographs. The back of the book includes a glossary of horticultural terms, lists of recommended books and websites, a pollen calendar for common species, and the current USDA plant hardiness zone map.

This is a book I’m certainly going to be using for reference often. It’s got a ton of great information on a wide variety of plants and, especially since we will hopefully be the owners of a new garden/yard soon, we’ll have lots of planning and plant-identifying for which to use it. I love gardening books and I’ve read a lot of them, but none have taught me as much about plant sex as this book. And how many gardening books have you read that contain the phrase, “Feminists, we need you!”

Full disclosure: reviewed from a complimentary copy provided by Blogging for Books.

FO Friday: Sarah smiles

Many of my Blythe sweater patterns are oversized – I just think it’s an attractive look for Blythe and can help her appear more like a miniature person (yes, still with a gigantic head, but closer). However, in the interest of creating a diverse wardrobe with lots of options, I want to create some patterns for pieces that are more fitted, too.

Sally Sweater for Blythe

How’s that for fitted? This sweater is worn reverse-cardigan style and fastens in the back with a tiny snap (you could alternatively use sew-on velcro if you so desire). It’s a body-con top that is able to be tucked in if desired.

Sarah Sweater for Blythe

This pattern is available on Etsy, Ravelry, LoveKnitting, and Craftsy.

Heroes

The CMU Art Gallery had a show earlier this winter called Heroes, which featured artwork that addressed that concept in some way. It was terrific!

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Linda Stein is a multimedia artist who creates for what she terms gender justice. All the works on display as part of this show had feminist themes and focused, as per the show theme, on superheroes.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I really enjoy the way she mixes media in unexpected ways to extend the themes of her artwork. Hers is the kind of art I could look at for hours and keep noticing new things.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Mark Newport‘s knitted superhero costumes are life-size or larger and are really impressive to see up close and in person.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I enjoy the ways that Newport plays with texture, color, and knitting techniques in these supersuits.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Brett Sauve is a sculptor whose work I’ve seen around town before. I really dig his style and it was neat to see some of his 2D art as well.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Delita S. Martin‘s displayed works use a variety of techniques to create layered, detailed, powerful works. Her combination of hand-stitching, printing, and collage is really striking.

I wish I could tell you to go check out this exhibit, but sadly we visited it on the last day and it’s now gone! Hopefully it’ll come back again at some point, as it is well worth checking out and I’d gladly go back to spend more time with these pieces.

back to the fling

Last year at the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show, they offered attendees an opportunity to participate in a contest at this year’s show. Entries in the 2015 Spring Fling, as it’s called, are required to utilize the square of fabric they handed out in 2014, fit the Spring Fling theme in some way, be started after 4/24/2014 and complete by 4/24/2015, be 60-100″ in perimeter, and be able to be hung on the wall easily. To me, this sounded like the perfect opportunity for an art quilt!

I imagine that most of the entries will quite different from the quilt I’m making, but I’m okay with that. They’ll be giving prizes for best use of color, best workmanship in piecing/applique, and best portrayal of the Spring Fling 2015 theme. I’m not particularly hot for a prize, just for the opportunity to participate in a public venue.

I’m still partway through making my current (larger) quilt WIP, but it’s getting to the point where it’s really big and difficult to spread out in the limited space we have, so it’s on a break right now. This project, though, is small and more manageable and I’ve been feeling itchy to be sewing again.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

Unsurprisingly, my rough plan for this quilt came together pretty quickly, involves a Blythe-esque figure on a natural background, and has references to classical artwork and feminism. My theme/title for the quilt is Regeneration, since that is a major theme of the spring season in life as well as in art. I did my usual quick-and-dirty photo editing to make myself a general outline to follow, though of course as always I am changing the plan as I go.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

For some sections, I trace the outline to make myself pattern pieces and for others I just free-hand cut things out. I’m getting increasingly comfortable with free-handing things the more I do it.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

You can see that I changed from the original arms-up pose to having the figure holding a tray. My thought process was this: eggs are an ancient symbol of spring, so I’d like to include them somehow. However, making an egg clearly an egg and not a rock or something else similar is tricky, so maybe I could go about it a different way. This led me to thinking about deviled eggs and that led me to think of vintage recipe cards with lurid illustrations of things like deviled eggs, which led me to decide to have the figure holding a tray of deviled eggs (and possibly other things).

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

I got this far over the weekend! Not bad for five or six hours of planning and working.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

The figure will be wearing a crown of butterflies, inspired by this painting. I was originally thinking a floral crown or wreath, because that’s another classical symbol of spring, but then I saw this painting and the butterfly idea grabbed me. Hopefully next weekend I’ll have some time to work on the crown, the eggs, and some further elements I haven’t added in yet.

FO Friday: Really Rose

It’s so cold out right now that the thought of wearing a three-quarter sleeve cardigan seems ridiculous, but if you’re Blythe, you really don’t have to worry about proper layers.

Rose Sweater for Blythe

The Rose Sweater for Blythe works well for variegated or solid yarn colorways. It has one buttonhole at the front top closure, so you can feature an adorbs tiny button that complements your yarn.

Rose Sweater for Blythe

Depending on the yarn you use, you can get a slightly different look to this sweater. The pink version is an alpaca/silk blend and has a little more drape than the yellow version, which is made with a merino/silk blend. You could also go up a needle size for an even looser knit with more drape.

Rose Sweater for Blythe

This sweater can also be worn reverse-cardigan style for a jumper-style sweater look. I like flexibility in my Blythe clothing, and the option to wear an item two ways is a big bonus for me, so I try to design it into my patterns whenever I can.

The Rose Sweater for Blythe pattern is available on Etsy, Ravelry, Craftsy, and LoveKnitting.