Saturday, September 26, 2009


Spiders have never been my favorite thing. I get creeped out when I wake up with a spider bite, but my distaste for spiders isn't really a phobia—I'd just rather they stay in their hole and I stay in mine. I'm not afraid of them like I am of poisonous snakes (I'll actually pick up garter snakes if I see them, but my Southern California childhood taught me to check for a rattle before picking up a snake...something a girl on my junior high school playground neglected to do).

At any rate, I was catching up on my New York Times today and saw this article from Sept. 22 about the "silk" of golden orb spiders in Madagascar being woven into this gorgeous, saffron-colored textile. Not a thread broke in the weaving process: the fiber is so naturally strong it's been used to make fishing line and nets. To read the article, look here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Up Periscope...Full Speed Ahead

Full speed into fall, that is. I've been in a bit of a funk of late, and perhaps it's because of fall...the fewer daylight hours, the impending winter, who knows? So instead of sewing shots, I share with you signs of fall in my backyard.

This dahlia bud does remind me of a cartoon submarine periscope. I fully expect it to start twisting around as it scans the horizon above the water's surface. In this case, it's peering above one of the dahlia's my husband planted. We visited Buchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. a few years ago and the dahlias were incredible—flowers bearing every permutation of color, size, petal shape, length, and width were staked grandly in a single border. Since then, Paul's planted dahilas.

This guy was purchased in a small farming town west of here. One year we went to a festival of some sort there and a man was selling the most inventive sculptures from found metal objects. And this one was, quite literally, five dollars. We bought at least three. He, too, reminds me of a cartoon character—the one who practically disappears when he turns sideways because he's so thin.

Here's sedum, the go-to guy in fall. We've planted them in our front and back yard. The ones in front have gotten a bit leggy and floppy as the shade has increased, but these guys in the back are stubby and stiff and stay nicely upright. Love this new shot of pink in early fall.

Here's a little stone landing that's finally coming into its own. This is the first year without our big maple, which used to provide lots of shade before it fell and crushed the garage last summer. The only downside to that big 'ol 120-year-old oak was that it made it impossible to grow much besides impatiens and hosta. While I love them both (and the hosta are definitely suffering without the shade) I'm thrilled with the purple fountain grass in the planter behind the chairs, which helps soften that big expanse of garage wall, and with the progress the wisteria has made in covering this funky arbor.

Finally, a flower that will last all winter long. A farmer's market purchase from earlier this summer, when peas and spinach were abundant. Now it's butternut squash and apple cider, which is a good reminder that fall certainly has its upside.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Quilters Show Their Stuff

A quilt show yesterday was one of the day's highlights. As someone who's helped organize a show, I have a real appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into putting one on. The Eastern Iowa Heirloom Quilters did a great job: lots of lovely quilts, vendors with gorgeous fabrics, and education sessions (and very fun award ribbons—take note in several of the photos below—another use for yoyos). Below are a few of the many terrific quilts: apologies for not crediting the quilters and apologies, too that these photos don't really do the quilts justice.

The quilt above had fabulous colors, a super-sized, red rickrack border, and was reversible!

This Amish-inspired quilt took advantage of that black background and bright, solid fabrics to make the colors pop. Over and over I was drawn to quilts with black backgrounds: I've only made one, but it's one of my favorites. It's tough to work on in the evenings, however.

Love the shape of these flowers—kind of a Dr. Seuss-feel about them. I'm excited about trying more applique.

I adore scrappy quilts. There is, of course, something soothing about a quilt that's tidy and neat, designed with colors that repeat throughout, but I love the spirit of this kind of quilt.

The little white blocks in the four-patches unify it and carry your eye, keeping the variety from being overwhelming. I'm not a major fan of these fabrics, but love the overall feel.

This green and pink beauty follows the same philosophy as the previous quilt (although the larger blocks, white background and solid white sashing unify it even more). This one is fresh and crisp.

Two (different) thirties-fabrics quilts with fabulous inner borders.

A simple quilt that makes great use of print (note the corners) and has inventive quilting. It's hard to see, but the quilter created trowels and spades in the brown garden-block rectangles.

And this was a totally fun kid's quilt: charming and so friendly.

As someone who loves to "hear" what quilters have to say, I always enjoy the stories people write about their quilts. One of my favorite stories was a woman who said she'd bought fabric to make her granddaughter a quilt, but she saved it until her granddaughter was old enough to do her own laundry, because the girl's mother always bleached the heck out of everything and she didn't want the quilt to be ruined.

And finally, I liked this quilt a lot, and then liked it even more when I read the name: Midnight in Barbie's Dream House.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Okay, Birdie Sling number four is finished (see one, two, and three here). I'm very happy with it and learned a valuable lesson: because so many pieces in this pattern require interfacing, the cutting-out and prep phase takes almost longer than the sewing. So, when I had a few minutes I'd run up to my sewing room and cut out the handles or apply fusible fleece to the lining. That way, when it came time to put it all together I could get it done in an evening. Again, I really enjoyed making this pattern; the pieces go together smoothly and nothing is overly or unnecessarily complicated. And while I worry about seeming like a one-trick pony, I keep making this bag over and over because it's useful, comfortable to carry, and elicits lots of compliments.

The bag is for my eldest daughter, who chose the fabrics at Home Ec when she was visiting in early July. The main part of the bag is from the Echino line of Kokka fabric, designed by Etsuko Furuya—a slightly heavier weight linen-cotton blend that has a nice bit of stability to it. The interior is a wonderful, retro-look (it hung in lots of kitchen windows when I was a child) cotton from the Robert Kaufman Hot Couturier line. And the fabric she chose for the handle really pulls it all together—fabulous dots from Laura Gunn's Lantern Bloom collection for Michael Miller.
I was going to wait to post this until I'd mailed off Maggie's Birdie Sling, but she's in the middle of moving and so I thought I'd wait until she was ensconced in the new place to send it . It's a big week for her—not only did she become a homeowner, today is her birthday.

Happy Birthday, sweetie—love you lots! The bag will be in the mail soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor (of Love) Day

I just love three-day weekends. They give you the time for those pesky, every-weekend chores—groceries, laundry, cleaning—and extra time to have a little fun, too. My weekend's included a movie (500 Days of Summer—oh to have eyes the color of Zooey Deschanel's, and how 'bout that plethora of blue in the movie? The dresses of the women dancing by the fountain, the wall paper in Zooey's apartment, and most of her fabulous clothing), a barbecue, and time for sewing, which was pure pleasure. I haven't really had time in my sewing room since June and I was pleased to find myself as enamored with it as ever.

However, yesterday's sewing project will have to wait. First, I'll share a project I made in late June, as a result of my yoyo fixation. This little bag is not only decorated with yoyos, it holds my four yoyo makers and a set of instructions. I used scraps from my niece's Birdie Sling and a baby quilt. And as crazy as it seems, I actually had this zipper—when the local Hancock's went out of business I was on a little-zippered-bag-making binge and so bought lots of zippers at half off—including this turquoise one.

The bag functions just like my favorite feature on my cell phone—the one where the person's photo shows up when they call. No need to remember their number or even to read the tiny font that announces their name. The yoyo bag proudly proclaims "YO! Yoyos here" so I don't need to cogitate over whether it's the bag that holds my lipstick or the zippered pouch that stores my IShuffle. Perfect for the aging brain.