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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Project Learn to Quilt: Commenced!

So I finally gave in and decided to learn to quilt.  After all, it seems to be one of the most useful needle arts, right after general sewing.  But you see, my sewing machine and I DO NOT get along.  I feel like I'm constantly fighting this thing, which is why cross stitching was always my thing.  When I found out you could quilt by hand, I was sold.  Here is my first project as set forth in the first issue of Fresh Quilts:

I decided not to post my step by step progress photos because I don't want to step on any copyright toes (I am a lawyer, after all), but here's the finished project, just in time for mami's birthday.

It went surprisingly smooth: the hardest part was the final battle with my sewing machine to do the topstiching on the sides to close the purse.  The most time consuming part was cutting out the "tumbler" pieces--all 72 of them!  I'm not too confident with a rotary cutter right now, so I cut each piece out individually.  If I ever make this purse again, I'll try folding my fabric in order to stack the layers before I cut.

The machine piecing was pretty easy.  The pattern calls for 1/4" seam allowances, so I just kept an eye out on the edge of my presser foot and was good to go, even trying chain piecing for a change!  The batting calls for fusible fleece, which was easy to find and easy to use.  I was already familiar with interfacing (for the strap), but I was new to fusible web, which was slightly tricky for me. In the end, it worked out just fine--the fusible web remained tacky for quite a while, so I was able to press the lining in place even after tons of manipulation.

I broke my first sewing machine needle on this project--I guess I was a little too anxious to finish it, and got into an epic battle with my bobbin.  In the end, a nice, deep, long breath and an extra burst of patience got me through it, and here it is--my first quilting project complete!

Monday, June 16, 2014

I guess I'm a YA at heart

I finished listening to The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan this weekend:

It was recommended to me by a friend, and I loved it!  This is definitely young adult fiction, and is marketed as such.  Think "Twilight," but with zombies.  The novel follows a teenage girl named Mary in post-zombie apocalypse village where the "Sisterhood," a group of nuns, rules the roost.  A fence surrounds the village to protect the inhabitants from the "unconsecrated"--AKA zombies--that dominate the forest.  Mary is obsessed with what might lie beyond the forest, so of course that messes with her ability to maintain relationships.

I listened to the audiobook version read by Vane Millon--she did an okay job.  I'm convinced that I would have enjoyed the book a little bit more had I actually read it for myself.  I exclusively listened to this novel while working on some crafts (more on that later), so my husband caught bits and pieces of it and remarked on how terrible it sounded.  I guess I have to agree just a little bit. 

Overall, I was really caught up with the story--it left enough mystery and intrigue to keep me listening, but in the end, a lot of it went unexplained.  I guess that's the nature of stories told in the first person view, though.  The book was very age-appropriate: it lists a suggested audience of 14 & up.  As y'all know, there's only so much sex and profanity I can stomach, and this book had none.  It was a refreshing change from the Stephen King novels I've been listening to--I guess the child in me still wants to read children's books.  There are more books in the series, so I have already checked out the e-book version of the sequel.  I'll be sure to let you know what I think of that one, too.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Let's get crafty!

It's been a week or so since I updated because I received these two beauties in the mail:

This is the Welcome Home wall hanging pattern I ordered from Buttons and Bees.  I am making this as a gift for someone special.  Ms. Gaddy does beautiful work, but this pattern could use a bit of editing.  I can't help but cringe when I find typos in products (I am a lawyer, after all).  I know everyone is susceptible to mistakes (even moi!), so I must forgive them.

She could also use a little formatting help.  This is an applique pattern, so the consumer needs to be able to cut out the pattern and use it as is.  The pattern was printed on regular 8.5" x 11" paper, which is fine, but she didn't take into account the paper margins.  Typically what you see is that the pattern "overlaps" when it is continued onto a second page so the consumer can merely connect the pieces after they're done cutting them out.  In this case, I had to do some creative "fill in the gap"-- nothing too difficult, but a little annoying because I paid $10 (after shipping) for this pattern.

Overall, the instructions and piecing diagrams are fine--as a quilting novice, I should be able to follow them just fine.  Now if I can just perfect my needle turn applique, we'll be rocking! 

 And this is the SUPER Giant Pack! of Iris embroidery floss.  I know this isn't the highest quality brand in the world, but frankly, I don't do a whole lot of embroidery or cross stitch anymore.  As long as it will withstand a hand-washing without bleeding dye, that's all I ask.  Then why buy 150 skeins, you ask?  Because I have a design in mind and I have no idea how much floss I will need for it.  I'll be blogging my steps through this process, so stay tuned!  As an FYI for anyone considering buying this particular product: obviously you're not buying 150 different colors, but be forewarned: there are only about 35 unique colors in this package.  They seemed to do a pretty good job of providing extra skeins of the colors you use more often. 

Needless to say, now I've been spending every spare waking moment working on several projects.  Now my home is in disarray!  I'll be back when I get some cleaning done.  Until then, happy crafting!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Magazine Review!

I just picked up this treasure on my magazine hunt:

I really don't enjoy watching movies, but my husband really wanted to see the new X-Men movie in theatres, so I got him to bribe me with a new magazine.  So off to Books-A-Million we went.  I was a bit dismayed to see how cute the mags printed in the UK were, but I found one super-awesome publication printed in the good ol' USA: fresh quilts. 

Oh, how I love this magazine!!  As an added bonus: this is the premiere (AKA very first) issue!  This is the magazine I have been looking for.  I know there are other well-respected, long-established quilting magazines out there, but they really seem geared toward an older generation (or at least people who have an older generation's taste).   I want to make just about every project in the issue--and get this: they're not all quilts!  I love that there are other sewing (and even one no-sew) projects that are cute and functional, too.  I'm sure I'll be posting some projects inspired by this mag in the very near future. 

I hope this magazine takes off, because as soon as they offer a subscription, I'm signing up.  In the meantime, I'll just be on the lookout for their next issue that comes out in July. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cross Stitch is a Dying Art

Several months ago, I started my first cross stitching project in years.  I taught myself how to cross stitch as a child and made several projects, but they all were too old fashioned to keep.  I didn't find a reason to pick up the needle and thread until our friends announced that they were expecting their first child--a little girl.  I think every baby should have something handmade and I just didn't know if anyone in their family was crafty or not.  Once I figured out what the nursery decor would be, I went and purchased a quilt kit from Dena's Happi Tree line.  Two months down the line, this is how it turned out:

I was even crafty enough to figure out some new embroidery stitches!  I learned the blanket stitch (how I made it to 29 without learning this one, I don't know) and the stem stitch.  I used my newly acquired skills to make a patch that would be the quilt label.  I also purchased my first fat quarter to do this, by the way:

It's pretty obvious that I didn't know what I was doing, but I was out of time.  The baby shower was a day or two after I finished the quilt.  I hope baby Emma loves her gift!

Bookshelf Makeover!

After perusing Pinterest and getting real life advice, I decided to take the plunge and makeover the bookshelf in my office/craft room.  The timing is right, because we just finished painting the entire room a lovely shade of lavender.  I decided to give Mod Podge a try.  So please join me on my maiden Mod Podge voyage!

I'm on a budget here, so I've been actively avoiding craft stores, which abound in the area I live in.  Instead, I went to Wal-Mart to get a 16 oz. container of Mod Podge for $6.97, plus tax.

I decided to go with the regular, matte finish Mod Podge, because for 7 bucks it'd better last me for some future projects, right?  I already had some fabric picked out for my bookshelf mod in my stash: a green and white polka dot print from Ikea that I bought at $1.99 per yard several years ago.  It was too heavy a cloth to use for clothing, so I ended up saving all 3 yards I purchased for a future date.  And today was that date!

Here are some before pictures of my bookshelf:

It's not the prettiest bookshelf in the world, but I have to keep it because my husband made it before he met me.  Because it's homemade, the shelves are fixed, so I have to mod it one section at a time.  I did not prep the wood at all; I figured if Mod Podge is all it's cracked up to be, I shouldn't have to sand anything.

MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE:  I did the first section a bit on the fly, thinking that an Exacto knife would take care of the overages.  Boy, was I wrong.  While the "trim away the excess" approach might work with a lighter weight fabric, my Ikea fabric was clearly intended for home decor purposes, so I failed miserably when I attempted to trim it with a knife after adhering it.  

Instead, I took accurate measurements and cut a piece of fabric to match each section, starching and pressing the fabric before attempting to adhere it to the bookshelf.  Then came the fun part:

MOD PODGE: If you've never used this stuff before, beware--it doesn't have the most pleasant smell.  It kind of reminded me of Elmer's glue on steroids.  I brushed it on in sections (I was warned that it dries fairly quickly) with a foam brush straight out of the bottle.  

I don't have many pictures of this process because it took two hands!  I am right-handed, so this is totally a staged shot!  I quickly realized that these type of in-process pics wouldn't help because mod podge is the same color as my bookshelf, so you really can't see it.  

Anyhow, I pasted on the fabric a fourth at a time, smoothing it carefully with my hands and I went.  Because of how heavy my fabric was, I found myself having to hold the remainder of the fabric as I went, because the sheer weight of the fabric would pull on the already-glued fabric.  

I put on a layer of mod podge over the fabric once it was in place, and voila!  The finished product:

You can totally see some of my brushstrokes on the first attempt:  I probably was a bit too liberal with the mod podge, but the subsequent sections seem fine.  I also did not worry about perfecting the edges:  a bookshelf is for holding books, right?  I will be loading up this bookshelf with enough stuff to cover up or play down any imperfections, so I'm good.  For that same reason, I won't be applying any additional sealant.  The mod podge left a bit of tacky feeling to my fabric, but I'm on a budget, remember?  My estimated cost for this little project is $8.00, since I used a little more than half of my mod podge (a more experienced mod podger would use less, I assume) and about 2 yard of my fabric.  This also took between two to three hours of my time.  Had the shelves or backing been removable, that would have decreased the project time greatly.

Now to load up my newly modded bookshelf!

...but a little too old for this book.

As I promised on my Goodreads review, here are all of my thoughts about Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight:

First off, full disclosure: I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, which I recognize can skew the "reader's" perspective of a book by giving the narrator a voice.  In addition, Ms. McCreight decided to present part of the story through a series of text messages, Facebook, and blog entries.  I'm sure they come across a lot different on paper.

My first thought is that I, at the ripe old age of 29, am WAY too old to be reading this book.  Khristine Hvam's voice throughout this novel was juvenile to a fault.  This book was not advertised as young adult fiction, so why was it read like it was?

Okay, rewind: if you don't know, this book is about a teenage girl who jumps off of the roof of her school right after being accused of plagiarism.  A few weeks down the road, her mother, who is a single mom and junior partner at a big law firm, receives an anonymous text telling her that her daughter didn't jump.  This sets her off on a path to "reconstruct" Amelia.

That being said, I understand why this book was read in an adolescent voice.  The problem I have is: how are we getting all of this from Amelia's point of view if she's dead?  Sure, she could have recorded her thoughts in several mediums much how I am right this moment, but there's dialogue, which rules that out.   Listening to this book, I kept asking myself whether Ms. McCreight ever went to high school herself, and if she did, where???  Sure, I might be 12 years removed from from high school, but we didn't talk or act this way twelve years ago.  No, we didn't have Facebook or text messaging to "bully" each other with, but we sure were never that mean to our fellow students.  We also didn't feel the need to use profanity in every sentence or have sex with every significant other.  I guess that's how they raise them up in NYC nowadays.

I get that bullying is a hot-button issue right now, but this book eerily mirrors the real-life story of Rebecca Ann Sedwick, the young girl who jumped to her death this past September right here in Polk County.  I'm assuming that the story made national news (I'm not sure because I don't watch national news networks) because Sheriff Judd arrested the two girls that tormented her.  I kept finding myself rolling my eyes every time I found a clear correlation between the real-life girl and Amelia.

Homosexuality also becomes an issue in the novel.  To those of you who know me in real life, you know where I stand on the issue and why I don't want it to be an "issue" in a work of fiction.  You want to have a gay character in a book?  Fine.  Just don't make their sexual preferences a big deal, and that's exactly what Ms. McCreighton has done in this novel.  It's my understanding that this is her first novel, so maybe she felt the need to make her personal thoughts known from the outset, I don't know.  I just hope that she realizes that people read books to be entertained, not annoyed.

Despite all of my criticism, I don't think Ms. McCreight is a terrible writer (as some have suggested).  I rather enjoyed her writing, just not how this story was presented, despite it being a great idea for a novel.  I'll give her next book a shot--just don't go all Gossip Girl on us next time, okay?