Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quilts and craziness.

I worked on my quilt some more today. Yesterday I finished chain piecing all of the 728 squares (I just realized that I was probably supposed to do that some as I was making strips, too, but I didn't). I guess it made things go more quickly, but since this is my first quilt I have nothing to compare it to. :) Today I started sewing the pairs of squares into strips.

I have 21 of 28 rows done so far.

It's not hard work, but it is tedious. And my pile of squares doesn't seem to be shrinking much, though I know it is. :)

I'm attempting to enjoy even the repetitive nature of quilt making.

Several times recently I've read something in relation to sewing: that you should enjoy the process just as much as the finished project. I've realized that I rarely do that. I'm always in such a hurry to see a project finished that I rush through it. And not just with sewing, but with knitting and embroidering and even reading. Sometimes I hurry through a book just so I can add it to my "read" list. Isn't that ridiculous?

I'm trying to learn to relax and enjoy things more. :) A quilt is a project that's really time consuming. But every time I see my finished quilt over the years, I don't just want to see the quilt itself. I want to remember all of the work I put into it and be proud of that.

So, I'm trying my best to enjoy the process of creating just as much as I enjoy what I create. Even when things aren't going so well. Like when I sew up the wrong seam and have to pick it out. Or when my stitches in knitting are too loose. :)

Oliver enjoys the process. Or what little of it he sees, anyway, when he's actually awake.

It doesn't bother him in the slightest that he's in my way or that his face or paws are only inches away from a very sharp needle.

Or that he's so sweet that I can't resist loving on him every few minutes.

Anyway, I hoping to finish the last seven strips tomorrow and then start sewing the rows together. After I get the quilt top finished, I can't do anymore until I buy the batting and wait for my walking presser foot to get here. I ordered one from Ebay today, because from what I've read, quilting (in straight lines- not free motion) is very frustrating and difficult without a walking foot.

I've been holding back on ordering one, because they're so ridiculously expensive. The cheapest I could find online was $30, which still sounds to me like way too much for a tiny piece of metal and plastic. Then Marmee called the local sewing machine/vacuum store (where I bought my machine) and asked if they had the walking foot I need. They did, and it's $75. Can you believe that?? Crazy. That's about 1/4 of what I paid for my whole machine! So I broke down and bought the one on Ebay. But it hurt. I kept thinking of how many books or how much fabric I could buy with that money.

My quilt has gone along pretty smoothly so far. I hope it'll still be that way when I start actually quilting it. :)

By the way, I saw Grey Gardens this weekend. One of the most bizarre things I've ever seen in my life. It was one of those things sort of like a car accident, that show Hoarders, or The Lawrence Welk Show. You feel like you should look away, but it's so hypnotic that you can't help but keep watching.

Until next time,

Friday, August 26, 2011


I meant to post this week with projects that I've been working on...Well, I haven't got many pictures, but I have been busy! :)

This week, I have...

-Ripped out the broken invisible zipper in my favorite dress and put a new one in. I hate to deal with zippers, so I put this off for weeks. And then it hit me that this was my favorite dress and if I ever wanted to wear it again, I should just suck it up and put a new one in. It took about 20 minutes. I felt silly for waiting so long.

-Finished sewing my first successful project out of knit fabric. It's an exact copy of one of my favorite shirts, and it turned out perfectly! Or at least I think it did. I'll know for sure after I wear it tomorrow. :)

-Made some items for my shop, but I haven't taken photos or listed them yet. Three cozies and one wallet. Not much, I know. But something.

And today...I started on my very first quilt.

I've been wanting to make a quilt for a while now, and I've been slowly collecting fabrics to use. I bought a book about quilting and learned the basics. {I also learned that I need to buy a walking foot and/or a free motion foot for my sewing machine. Still haven't done that. I can't believe little pieces of metal cost so much!} But even the beginner quilts in the book looked a little more complicated than I wanted to attempt for my first one.

So I bought the Ollalieberry Ice Cream Quilt pattern of Alicia Paulson's. Simple squares, quilting in straight lines, etc. I feel like I need direct instructions and simplicity for my first quilt, so I think this will be perfect.

And today I cut out all of my fabric! Exactly 728 sweet little squares.

I know the color scheme looks a little out there at the moment. But I'm hoping it'll all pull together when I start piecing things together. My inspiration was the laundry day embroidery I did last month. I wanted red and light teal/turquoise to be my main colors, but I had a hard time finding the color blue I liked. So I added more light green and yellow. Even if it does end up looking kind of quirky, it can't be more mismatched than the quilt already on my bed (see pictures below).

I forced myself to cut into some fabrics that I have been hoarding. Like the Bambi print, the sewing print (that I made this bag out of), I Love Lucy, and Wizard of Oz. I figured I could spare a tiny bit and it'll make my quilt a little more special because it's full of stuff I love. I'm thinking about embroidering a few squares, too.

It's crazy to think that these little squares will become a quilt, isn't it?

Anyway, I hope to start sewing squares together this weekend. I know quilts take a lot of time and effort to complete. I really want to have this one finished by the beginning of November, at least (cool weather!). I'm not sure yet if that's a realistic deadline or not, but I hope so. :)

Some crafty books I ordered from Amazon came today! I'm so excited to read through them.

I got The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Knitting, The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Crochet, and The Handmade Marketplace (with Emily Martin illustrations inside!). I also got a really good deal on a used copy of this book. Call me a prude, but you guys know how I feel about profanity, so the title put me off for a while. But I kept hearing that it is one of the best, if not the best, knitting book for beginners. Since it was so cheap, I decided to go for it.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm obsessed with craft books. They are so beautiful and inspiring. This is my collection (minus the new ones):

These pictures remind me that I really want to show you guys my little sewing corner. But it's the corner of our mudroom/storage room and it's hard to get good photos of just my corner, without including all of the other stuff we have back there. :) I'm working on it, though. I love my crafty corner and want to share it!

I just looked over and saw this on my bed.

Ollie, this cannot be comfortable.

This is Ollie, by the way. My brother's cat that I sort of claim as my own. He is so loving and needy, and he just always wants to be with someone. He used to lay on my cutting mat. Now he sleeps right next to my sewing machine while I try to work around him. I'll get a picture of that next time, because it's so stinking adorable that I can't get mad.

I have a cat, too. But Jack is a little anti-social. He has his favorite spots where he likes to spend the days sleeping, and they don't include the sewing table. The only time he lets you show any affection towards him is when he wants food. But I like to pick him up when he's unsuspecting and love him until he squirms. :) He's camera shy, but I can catch him sometimes.

See the quilt on my bed? It's an old one from my mom's side of the family. It's not especially pretty, but it is very functional. I love that it looks like it was made with leftover fabric, and sometimes even the little squares are pieced together. Like nothing went to waste. I like that it wasn't really made to be pretty- it was made with what they had and it was made to be used. I hope my new quilt will be both pretty and functional for many years to come. :)

Until next time,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My first scarf {and some knitting resources}.

I suppose it's about time for a knitting update. First of all, I wanted to thank everyone who has left encouraging comments with advice, videos, and other links. My friend Alannah in Canada went so far as to offer to fix something for me if I sent it to her. :)

So, the last time I wrote about knitting, I was just starting a scarf out of garter stitches. But my scarf had some sort of growth disorder and extra stitches kept mysteriously appearing on my needles. *cough* I sent out a plea here on the blog, but being too impatient and anxious to wait for a response, I Googled my problem.

I found out what I was doing wrong, and the comments that were left here confirmed it. When starting a new row, I was pulling the working yarn over behind the needle instead of in front of it {or something along those lines}, which makes it look like you have an extra stitch. And when you knit that loop, you do have an extra stitch. Plus I was accidentally picking up a few extra stitches in the middle sometimes, too.

I started being really careful and counting my stitch before I started each row, just to make sure I hadn't added any. After a lot more practice, I've improved now so that I don't have to count my stitches that often. Most of the time. :)

And a few days ago I finished my first scarf!

The yarn is the kind I bought to practice with- a $3 Red Heart Super Saver skein. No use in buying fancy, expensive yarn when I'm just starting. :) It's a worsted medium weight, I think? {You guys know I'm a beginner here. So if I'm make mistakes when talking about knitting stuff, just disregard them, please.} The label said to use size 8 (5 mm) needles, but I just used what I have- size 11 (8 mm). It's about 15 stitches wide, and I just measured the length by one of the scarves I already own.

But because I'm being completely honest about my beginner knitting skills here, I had to take a picture of this. This is the not-so-pretty end of my scarf. It's the end I started off with, when I was accidentally adding stitches. I didn't want to go back and redo it all, so I just decreased to get back to the number of stitches I started off with. I was so anxious to get back to 15 that I decreased a little abruptly, resulting in this little wave thing. But that's okay. This is my first scarf- it doesn't need to be perfect.

Also, I think I dropped two stitches (both of them at the very beginning. In about the first 10 inches of the scarf). At least I assume that's what happens when you end up with a little hole in the knitting like this?

I also started practicing purl stitching. and then combining knitting and purling into these stitches:

So far I am really enjoying knitting. Unless I'm making mistakes, it's really relaxing. I'm such a perfectionist and control freak that sometimes I just have to tell myself to calm down and not go crazy when things don't work out perfectly the first time. And I really love that it's a super portable hobby. Embroidery is portable, too, but it can sometimes be inconvenient to be unwinding and cutting floss, threading needles, etc. I've taken to sticking my yarn and needles in my bag when we're going somewhere, because it's easy to knit in the car. Only when you're the passenger, of course. :)

Sometimes I do feel a little overwhelmed with everything there is to learn, especially when it comes to things like gauge and knitting in the round.

I thought I would list some of the online resources that have been really useful to me as a beginner knitter. The online crafting community is really an incredible thing! There's so much helpful information out there.

This one and this one are the first two that I used. The first one is nice and slow, but the second one helped me understand a certain part easier.

An anonymous commenter pointed me to a series of knitting videos found here. Even though the "host" is sometimes cheesy, they're really helpful. I could not understand purling until I watched the video about it from this series.

I've also watched some of the videos from here.

Ravelry. You can't really see anything until you create an account. I've only just skimmed around a little since I made my account, but I hear this is an amazing resource for knitters and crocheters.

My cousin Amy let me know about this knitalong for beginners. It's being cohosted here, but her blog seems to be down at the moment. This knitalong is for a sweater. Yes, the idea of knitting a sweater is terrifying to me. :) But I think I'm going to give it a go. I think that I will learn a lot, even if things go horribly wrong and my sweater is unwearable.

Out of the three knitting books I got from the library, this one called Speed Knitting has definitely been the most helpful. It also includes the cutest patterns out of the three.

Well, that's where I am so far. I bought some pretty green yarn the other day and I want to make another scarf, but I'm still trying to decide what stitch I should use.

I'm hoping to buckle down and get a lot of sewing and crafting done this week. The last week or two have been less than productive for me, especially when it comes to sewing and working on my Etsy shop. I've just realized that this Christmas will be my first holiday season with my shop, and I want to come up with some really cute Christmas items. I need to be brainstorming and planning now! I'll try to pop in this week with some crafty posts showing you guys what I've been working on. :)

Until next time,

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jane Eyre.

Tonight I watched the new Jane Eyre again. And this time, I jotted down some notes as I watched. Go ahead and laugh, but this is the only way I can remember the things I wanted to say about the film. :) There will be spoilers, so if you don't know the plot of the story, be warned.

I read Jane Eyre exactly two years ago and absolutely loved it. Shortly after that, I saw the 1943 Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine version of the film. I liked it a lot but was disappointed because so much was changed or left out. That was the only film adaptation I had seen up until this week.

I really love this version. It's a beautiful film. There are a few little things that I didn't like, which I'll mention later. But since the details of the novel aren't fresh on my mind like they were when I first saw the 1943 version, I'm willing to overlook the little things. :)

First of all, this movie has a dark, mysterious feel. They really emphasized the Gothic elements of the story, a lot like Orson Welles did in the other version. In the special features, it's mentioned that the director wanted a mix of a love story and a horror film. Don't worry- it didn't come across that way at all, in my opinion. :) But Jane Eyre is a darker story, more like Charles Dickens than Jane Austen.

The casting was perfect. Mia Wasikowska was perfect as Jane Eyre, and Michael Fassbender was very good as Mr. Rochester. I have to say that as hard as the filmmakers try to make actresses like Mia "plain," as Jane is supposed to be, it's still obvious how pretty they are. :) I've seen this so many times in pictures of the different Janes. In this case, they give Mia a dreadfully unflattering hairstyle (or, according to the special features, it's a wig) to try to distract from the fact that she might be a little too pretty to be Jane Eyre.

I thought that the young Jane was perfect as well. She really even looks like a younger version of Mia. And I have to laugh when she jumps on her cousin after he's hit her, and he lays there screaming like a little wimp. It drives me crazy that so many good literary heroines end up in cruel or dysfunctional families. This might sound terrible, but I also find it amusing when young Jane is asked how she might avoid "the place the wicked go after death," and she responds: "I must keep in good health and not die." I've always thought that was funny, because she's just as serious and sober as she can be when she says it. She's not trying to be smart.


I loved Judi Dench as the housekeeper {I've had a fondness for her ever since the first time I saw her as the sweet Miss Matty in Cranford}. I love her expression when she's eating with Jane and Adele, and Rochester is outside shooting. And her line, "He's taken to singing." Sally Hawkins was incredibly creepy as Mrs. Reed, especially considering she plays Anne Elliot in my favorite version of Persuasion. I was glad that the Rivers family was included (they're not even in the 40s version). It was nice to see Tamzin Merchant, also known as Georgiana Darcy in the best version of P&P *cough*. But what is with the English pronunciation of "St. John?" It sounds like they're saying "sin gin."

I'm so glad they kept these quotes, quite possibly my two favorite quotes from this story:

"You transfix me quite."

"And if God had blessed me with beauty and wealth, I could make it as hard for you to leave me as it is for me to leave you."

My favorite scenes by far are the ones between Jane and Rochester together. The fire during the night, the proposal, the one where he's begging her not to leave. I just wanted to see more of them, you know? I realize this is Jane's story, but I wanted more of her relationship with Rochester- to see how it developed instead of it seeming to happen rather suddenly. But what was there was lovely. :)

And here are the things I wasn't so sure about. I still don't know how I feel about the flashback idea. This film starts with Jane leaving Thornfield, wandering the moors, and meeting the Rivers family. Then there are flashbacks to her childhood and her time with Rochester. I didn't really mind this myself. But I think that for casual viewers, people who aren't familiar with the story, it could be a little confusing. I would be confused by it if I hadn't already read the book.

I wish some of the details and scenes hadn't been cut. Like the gypsy scene. I want to see that in a film! Is it in the newest mini series (2006 or whatever it is)?

I know that some people consider Jane Eyre a feminist novel, but I've never considered it that. I was a little disappointed that in this film, when Rochester asks Jane to stay and be his mistress rather than leave him, Jane's refusal was based mostly on herself and her self-respect. When I read the novel, I saw evidence of God and Jane's relationship with him everywhere. Her refusal did have something to do with self-respect, but it was also largely because it would be wrong in the eyes of God. I know in the film she says something like, "Help me, God," as she pulls herself away from him, but I still felt like that wasn't the focus.

The scenery and the music, like in 2005 Pride and Prejudice, are incredibly gorgeous. The interior scenes are dark, but the outside scenes are full of green and stone walls and beautiful trees and moors and all of the lovely things I associate with English scenery. :) The haunting music is by the super-talented Dario Marianelli, who is also responsible for the 2005 P&P soundtrack. I bought the soundtrack weeks ago on iTunes and have been listening to it ever since. I'm listening to it right now, in fact. It's amazing how much more you notice the score of a film when you've already been listening to it.

I was the slightest bit disappointed with the special features on the DVD. As someone who loves watching features and documentaries about the making of films, there just wasn't enough. :) The deleted scenes were good, but I'm glad they left out the creepy ones with ghosty Helen. The other features were good but just entirely too short!

Anyway, I loved this film. I keep hearing mixed reactions: some people love it, some people don't. I guess it's like that with most classic novels that are adapted to film.

Have you seen it? I want to know what you thought. 

Until next time,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I made another dolly yesterday. This is the Patchwork Penny doll, also from the Wee Wonderfuls book. I can't recommend the book enough- the projects are adorable, and there are some for girls and boys. I love all of the projects and can see myself making all of them except for maybe one or two. I hope to make one or two of them for myself soon. :) This doll, like my last one, is also a gift for a little girl.

Oh my goodness, I love those sweet little braids. Yarn is the best doll hair ever. It took a lot of fiddling, but it was totally worth it. The front looks better than the back- even though I tacked it in a lot of spots in the back, sometimes you can see some of her head showing through.

I really didn't make any changes to her from the book, that I can think of. I just didn't use the option of making a little quilt that matches her dress- I was using scraps of fabric and didn't have enough.

I've got several other posts that I need to write up, but this will have to do for now. I was planning on doing reviews of Elvis movies this week for Elvis Week (today is the 34th anniversary of his death)- I watched Jailhouse Rock last night. But things didn't work out.

I've been practicing my knitting a lot. What started out as me practicing my garter stitch has grown into a scarf. Besides some little issues at the beginning, it's been going well and I think I'm getting the hang of it! I'll post some pictures when I finish it and move on to practicing other things.

I also finally got to see the new Jane Eyre, as it was released on DVD today! It was amazing and I loved it- I'll review it after I watch it again. If you can call what I write "reviews." It's generally just me rambling about great casting, pretty scenery, and gorgeous scores. :)

Until next time,

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Little Dorrit.

Tonight I finally watched the last few episodes of Little Dorrit. {This post includes spoilers.}

Wow- I loved it! Between this mini series and Bleak House, I'm thinking that I really need to read a Charles Dickens novel. His stories are just huge and complex. So many little subplots intertwining with the main plot, and so many amazing, unforgettable characters. I really don't even know where to begin.

The characters all stand out to me. I love Amy Dorrit. She's so good and selfless (a little like Esther in Bleak House). I kept wondering how on earth she got born into such a kooky, selfish family. I've heard criticism that she's too perfect, and maybe she is. But I liked her a lot.

Matthew Macfadyen as Arthur Clennam. Oh my goodness. First of all, I have to reinforce that Matthew Macfadyen is my favorite Mr. Darcy. I like Colin Firth and all, but he is not the Mr. Darcy in my opinion. Other than Pride and Prejudice {2005-my most favorite movie ever}, I had only seen Matthew Macfadyen in two other films/mini series. One was the first episode of Any Human Heart, which I was so disgusted with that I only watched the first part. The other was The Way We Live Now, which I watched on Netflix streaming weeks ago. It was a very depressing series full of greedy, selfish people who all came to bad ends (ha. Sort of reminded me of Gone With the Wind). In that series, he plays a complete cad and spoiled mama's boy who whined a lot (the whining was a little amusing).

So this was very refreshing. Arthur is such a kind, good person. Like Amy, except a little less extreme. He was awesome. And it doesn't hurt that he's so darn handsome. :) Plus, he actually smiles a lot in this. He only smiles once in P&P, so it was nice to him grin more often.

Although sometimes Mr. Dorrit infuriated me with his pride and the way he treated Amy, I did like him. I felt so sorry for him, and you know it had to be a huge shock going from the debtor's prison to wealthy society practically overnight.

The rest of the family was worse. Fanny and Tip grated on my last nerve with their greed and arrogance and laziness. And (is this becoming a familiar theme yet?) the awful way they treated Amy. I did love their uncle, though. Especially the time he took up for Amy. I did not expect his end to come the way it did! Good grief.

And although of course I was totally biased towards Arthur, I did like John Chivery. He seemed to really care about Amy. The dramatic crying did get a little old, though. Move on, man. Move on. :)

Flora cracked me up. Always fluttering around, Arthur, I mean Mr. Clennam. Her aunt (?) was pretty hilarious, too.

Don't tell me I'm the only one who can only see Gollum when I see Rigaud. Ugh. He was an incredible villain, I'll give him that. He was so slimy and disgusting that I felt the urge to cringe every time he came on screen. {I loved the guy who was released from jail and was terrified of Rigaud, the one that ended up living with that family? He was awesome and always made me smile.}

Aw. Happily ever after. There were times during the series that I doubted this would ever happen. But it did!

Then there are tons of other characters I haven't even touched on: Flintwich, the Merdles, Mr. Sparkler, the Gowans, the Meagles, Maggy, Pancks. Pancks- I didn't like him at all at first. But he grew on me a lot, in his weird way. He wasn't a bad guy. Just a little odd. I loved it when he wanted Arthur to insult him for leading him into the bad business deal. :)

Little Dorrit is a wonderful mini series. I loved every bit of it. Like I said before, Charles Dickens does things on a grand scale. The characters are the best part of this story, but the plot itself was really interesting, too. I didn't know anything about debtors' prison before watching this. I just assumed that debtors went to the same prison as everyone else. I never thought about their families going with them.

The music was also really lovely, and so was the cinematography, though of course it's a lot darker than say, Jane Austen's film adaptations. :)

No spontaneous human combustion in this one. But I am wondering what made the Clennam house collapse out of the blue.

One last Matthew Macfadyen picture. I can't resist.

Until next time,