I have made

Pillows, done



I'm not sure what finally got up my ass to spur these pillows into action, amid all the other incompletes laying dormant around the house. I finished the Sashiko-inspired embroidery shortly after we moved into the house. They've been innocuous enough, needlework tied-off, hanging from the boards, looking pretty and serene. 


But even before those curtains were done (hell, I'm still hunting for proper cleats which aren't to be found at Home Depot as had been promised) I was looking to those linen panels to fill up some crafty evenings. And so I backed them with my herringbone wool remnant find, outfitted them with zippers, and finished the pair with some of the miles of binding tape I'd made up for Bear's quilt last year. If I'd gone with what I thought would be most visually pleasing, I might have picked out a nice steely gray to adorn those edges. But, you know, use what you have and all. 


Back to those zippers, though. My best ever thrift shop score was a bagful of zippers in all the hottest flavors of seasons long past and smelling like the floor of some ancient sewing basket. It was a haul so great I compare all subsequent thrift store visits against that great day. Dozens of zippers, invisible, metal coil and nylon, wide unwieldy coat zippers, ones long enough to seal up a sleeping bag, little ones for a future coin purse, their average age besting mine by at least a decade. All for 4 bucks. Their original packages list prices lower than what I routinely hand over to The Boy for a gumball out of the machine after soccer class. Added to my modest accumulation of zippers bought and miserly reclaimed (read: ripped off of no longer used items), and never again will I write off late-night project ideas for lack of hardware.  


Another thing about these pillows… When the size of the panels is dictated by a sheet of stabilizer small enough to run through your printer to serve as an embroidery template, your end result will perhaps not conform to any known pillow form. No worries, though, because I've got that big bag of sewing scraps (I really should consider throwing things out occasionally) sitting by the sewing machine. I cut up a big pile of scraps into fabric confetti and stuffed them silly into makeshift cases of layered muslin and quilt batting. And, again, because the template was essentially a letter-sized sheet of fabric, these are teeny little pillows. Comically tiny, albeit highly decorative, throw pillows. Unless you're a toddler looking to accessorize her scaled-down replica of the chair you used to nurse her in. In which case, they're the perfect size.


Tags: pillows, sashiko, sewn, zippers

Little accomplishments


Nearing the end of the Great Roman Shade drive of 2010/2011 I started getting antsy to work on more immediately-satisfying projects. It's partly what makes these projects take so damned long to complete. A sort of Inceptionesque, project within a project syndrome. What ends up pushing the completion back is my shoe-horning of new tinkerings into the final drive — always at the end of the project — when, if I'd just put my nose down and grind out the job on the ol' sewing machine it'd just be done already.


So, with rod pockets aligned and staple gun set to merge hardware to software, I scanned Teux Deux for instant gratification. It was when I glanced up from my computer, though, that the next project jumped out at me. Set back into my side of the desk/bookcase/hutch is my little message board, half corkboard, half magnetic whiteboard, handy for list creation, postage stamp wrangling and amusing-thing-I-tore-out posting. But cork and whiteboard surfaces are uninspiring things, and I'd already aestheticized similar surfaces elsewhere. And The Boy, on a not enough snow to make it worth going out on a too cold day, was rallying for a project of his own. So together we taped off the whiteboard side, and applied one then another then a third coat of chalkboard paint over the course of a day.


Before I tackled the cork side, though, I interrupted that project to chop a couple inches off the bottom of a pair of pants. Because that's how much shorter I am than producers of corduroy jeans would like. Now, normally, cutting into designer cords would leave me near paralysis with the fear of misstep. I would measure not just twice, but likely five times, marking the incision line with chalk, then measuring another few times for kicks and giggles. But, when the said pair of pants is snagged off the tightly-packed rack of the fluorescent-lit bottoms aisle at Value Village, and brought home without the benefit of a visit to the fitting room because the two children you brought with you would surely escape under the door while your pants dangled from your knees (but you found they fit perfectly anyway once tried on at home during naptime!) you can be more cavalier about cutting precision. And a half hour after I started, I had pants neatly hemmed to a length that didn't have them dragging under my soles in the rain and mud in constant flow here.


That nagging concern out of the way, I could once again focus on the cork side of the message board (remember that?), and I turned to the iron-on-fuse method with some fabric sitting in the stash. Sanded down the rougher spots on the chalkboard side, and returned the board to it's custom fit nook in the bookshelf. 


Now, I'm going to take a little breather here, from all the small jobs, to show you perhaps my favorite tool from my ever-growing collection of crafty paraphernalia. The handy 'lil chalk pencil, with tidy little refill chalk sticklets in a lovely pastel array, sharpen-able with any stationary aisle pencil sharpener. Perfect for pattern marking and penning your autobiography (legibly!) one slate at a time. Remember that chalk holder your high school English teacher kept locked in the top drawer of his desk? Remember how you'd come in before class and try to sneak a scribble with it? Right. Sometimes I forget not everyone is such a school supply nerd.


Ok, one final, little thing before I get back to searching for the perfect cleat to complete that first roman shade, already. And I've already shown it to you, so this'll be quick. My new, hermaphraditic camera strap. A cheater project, says Mr. New Media, because instead of working a new one from scratch I simply encased the strap that came with the camera and put a few stitches on it. This one, too, came together in little time (interrupted with the business of feeding a family), and I never quite got to the little lens cap pouch I wanted to build into the strap. So, just add this to the list of projects not quite done.

Tags: camera strap, chalk, cork board, hem, white board


Making a Samoa completely from scratch, right down to the caramels, is a multi-day process. We started Thursday, preparing all the components, making and wrapping up little caramels, toasting coconut flakes to a fragrant crisp, and rolling out and baking up the shortbread cookies. Yesterday, Friday, was a day of rest from cookie-making. Today, everyone at home with a solid chunk of time to get back to the business of confectioning, we assembled the components, topped it all with a Jackson Pollack chocolate splatter, and have a couple dozen of what we hope to be somewhat palatable, non-dairy cookies.


I got it up my bonnet, and subsequently got The Boy all feverish with excitement too, that we'd make cookies today. An off-topic typo-ridden email thread at work the other day had gotten Girl Scout Samoas (or Caramel DeLites, as they're known in Texas and other unenlightened parts of the country) on my mind, so it was a replication of those cookies that I settled on. The recipe, of course, called for Kraft caramels, which wouldn't do at all for the dairy intolerant among us. So the first order of business was to make, essentially, vegan caramels. There are still at least a couple steps before our Samoas reach completion, but we've got some sweetly wrapped candies for the interim.

Mini-blinds, beware


Going on several months now, spanning holidays and waning interest and more pressing projects and chronic iPad usage, I've been intermittently toiling away at the roman shade for the french door in our bedroom. It's actually a project seven years overdue. With absolutely no sewing skills, and no time spent behind a machine since the previous decade when I'd labored over a string of cloth lunch bags for my high school environmental club, I purchased a shiny new Singer from Target along with many yards of fabric, some satin-y, some sheer, and picked up a somewhat-dated book on window treatments from the library book-sale. I was going to make a couple of roman shades for our bedroom windows in an ambitious design, complicated by borders and strategically-placed sheer panels. Having never worked with that sort of slick fabric before, and having never applied a border, mitered or otherwise, to any length of fabric, the project ended in utter failure. The satin sloshed around on itself and I couldn't figure out how to get the border on even and straight. In the end, what went up on the windows were Ikea-bought curtain panels, hemmed to just above the floor-line, a project even my meager skills could handle.


So when, in a new house, I decided to tackle the roman shade again, even with considerably more sewing time under my pedal foot, I took a conservative tack, taking the form of a crisp decor-weight cotton and equally uncomplicated lining fabric. Roman shades seem ridden with such daunting complexities, with all the cording and dowel rod-encasing and lath-attaching, and listing requirements for things like cleats and drop-weights. None of that was really so complicated, a fact that should have been evidenced by the fact that the whole curtain-making procedure took up all of three pages in my photo-heavy book, the same one I'd picked up for the never-realized shades.


The part I wasn't prepared for, what really held up the process (besides my unshakable tendency to dilly-dally at that initial cutting stage), was the handwork called for to line the panel. Many nap-times, days off from work, late-nights with coffee, were spent hunched over the curtain, working the perimeter with needle and thread. More hand-stitching to secure the dowels in their cozy pockets. And then couching, to the back of the panel, the little plastic rings found in a bag in the darkest corner of the craft closet. Other contents of that bag included curtain cording and the sheer fabric purchased to construct that other shade. The cording went smoothly while kids were off at school. I'll know, next time, not even to attempt that step with a nosy, greasy-fingered toddler around to trip through and yank at strings and tighten unwanted knots and sprawl across the expanse of fabric.


Mr. New Media, being tall enough to do so without the assistance of wobbly chairs, completed the actual installation of the shade. And, as I've mentioned before, we're still searching for something to tie the cord around that isn't the usual, uninspired cleat. But it's up, elegantly tucking up into itself just as a proper roman shade should. Of course, part of my conservatism on this project involved purchasing just enough yardage to cover the door, and not enough to also complete a matching shade for the window on the other side of the room. And, of course, it being months later, and apparently well into a new fabric design season, the bolt containing that fabric is no longer at the store. I did source it on Etsy, my Paypal balance finally finding purpose, so a few more yards are on their merry way.

And when they finally get here, they'll sit around until get another six months to spare on another set of roman shades.


I'm not much for embroidery, but I've been taken in with this particular strain of it, sashiko. The thread tunneling through the fabric creates a pleasing texture and lends itself nicely to more graphic, repetitive designs. I actually finished this one months ago, planned for before our move back home, and then left to hang on the wall while I contemplated its final purpose. I'm thinking pillows now, because it's been a while since I added to our collection, and curling up on the couch with soft things has a very tangible appeal during winters that actually get cold.


With that curtain finally (well, mostly) done, and before I get to the business of making a complementary shade for the other window in the room, it's time to tackle all the smaller projects on the ol' Teux Deux. "Make new strap" has been on there since we got the camera. I'd put it off in the usual, labor-over-the-logistics sort of way, before deciding to just make a glorified sleeve and permanently affix it to the default strap by way of a staff of parallel stitching. Method chosen, the only thing left (besides, y'know, actually making the thing) was fabric selection. Wool tweed, picked from the remnant bin for another as-of-yet unfulfilled purpose and that same curtain panel fabric seem to achieve that elusive feminine/masculine hybrid. Hermaphroditic, you might say.