Wednesday, June 17, 2009

projects galore

I'll give you a break on the all-the-time-every-second-of-every-day house decluttering/painting/DRAMA AROUND EVERY TURN situation, and get back to the sewing and quilting I was doing before we decided we might move. Now my life is over and all I do is house stuff, but at least you don't have to suffer with me.

Swistle asked about the cost/difficulty/learning for quilts. And to that, I say, ohhhh lordy. This quilt is without a doubt the most expensive piece of bedding I have ever purchased in my life. Part of this is that it is my first quilt, so I purchased too much of every fabric. I even have a couple of yards of one whole fabric because it ended up clashing with my other choices. It won't go to waste, of course, and I have tons of projects in mind, but still. I spent a LOT on fabric. Part of it, however, is that if you make a big quilt, especially a quilt with several different colors/fabrics, you have to buy a lot of fabric and fabric isn't necessarily cheap. This fabric was between $8-10/yard, and I needed a lot of yards. Plus, I couldn't find the monkey fabric in stores so I had to pay shipping from a few different stores, and oh, let's stop talking about it because I'm depressing myself.

Then Chatty Cricket and I took a class from this adorable little quilting store, and that class was totally worth it and I learned so much more than I'd thought I would, but still, it wasn't cheap. I guess I shouldn't figure that cost into the quilt since I'll carry those skills forward in my quilting future, but it feels like part of the cost of the monkey quilt. The class was maybe 8 classes or so (I can't remember exactly) and we'd go there with our fabric and sewing machines and they walked us through the pattern and the process and gave us tips along the way. We would do a part of the cutting or sewing every week and then go home with homework. Maybe this is a little unusual, and I definitely think you could do a pattern on your own and not take a class like this, although we had a blast. We were just laughing about the class the other day because it would inevitably turn into a "stitch and bitch" as the teacher referred to it. We'd jabber on throughout the class and have a blast.

And then in the end I decided to pay someone to do the actual professional quilting of the quilt (putting together the quilt top, batting, and the backing and sewing it all together with a pretty pattern). This quilt is really big and I knew my poor little 25 year old multiple owner machine wouldn't be able to handle it. Plus, I knew the woman would do a fabulous job. I did find the cheapest person around and drove halfway across Massachusetts to bring it to her, and it turned out great, but again, more cost.

The actual process of quilting was easy, though. If you've ever sewn anything with a sewing machine (and my experience is limited and definitely amateur), you can definitely quilt. The class was helpful in learning all the little tips, and in learning how to read the stinking pattern, because unless someone had explained it to me, it would have been like reading Chinese. There is a lot of cutting of little pieces in quilting, or at least in our particular quilt, and while I didn't love that, I did love the actual sewing together. This was very surprising to me. I found it incredibly relaxing and peaceful and almost meditative. I'd press the sewing machine foot down, start running the fabric through, and just zone out. The other night my friend called to see if I wanted to run out after the kids were in bed and see a movie, and I stared longingly at the sewing machine before grudgingly saying yes. I was dying to start some new little projects and lose myself in the sewing, but I get so little time away from the family, I couldn't possibly say no. Plus, buttered popcorn! Cherry Pepsi! No children!

The other thing about quilting that was a little hard, at least for me, is that it isn't instant gratification. You are really putting in the time to eventually receive a finished product, but that finished product is a long time in the making. I think that may be why this quilt took so long. I just lost steam after a few months of working on the same project. Throw pillows or tote bags or blankets are quick project taking just a few hours or maybe a few days. A quilt takes weeks or months (or years, in my case).

I am going to make Josie a quilt, although it will definitely be smaller than Gabe's. More throw sized than twin mattress sized. I am loving the process of picking out her fabrics and I'm really taking my time to find what I think is a perfect combination. The pattern is also going to be more squares and rectangles, less itty bitty triangles to make up a star. We'll see how it goes. As soon as I have all of the fabrics chosen, I'll post with pictures. The main fabric is so stinking cute, I wish I could have something for myself.

Overall, I give quilting two thumbs up. You should all definitely try it. The rush from making something with your own two hands is pretty cool.

But back to my newfound motivation as I mentioned in the post about the quilt... My poor little used sewing machine, bought off of Craigslist for $30, is really showing that it was worth the investment.

The other day on Freecycle, a woman was giving away a bag of old fabric, so I picked it up and picked out what I wanted and donated the rest to a nursing home (for projects, I guess). One of the free fabrics was this cheerful navy blue Marimekko fabric with bright fruits on it. I'd been trying to figure out what to make out of it. Then last week at the fabric store there was a clearance yard of vinyl fruity fabric for $1.50, and I came up with the idea of a picnic blanket.

I trimmed my fruity fabric and the vinyl fabric to match each other, about a yard and a half squared. I sewed them together and made straps out of my cotton fabric, and attached those straps to the blanket so I could tie it closed when it was folded up.

The vinyl fabric is waterproofed on one side and has cotton on the other, sort of like those old tablecloths.

Ta da! So easy! It only took me about an hour to put it all together and now we have an easy picnic blanket. I thought about adding a strap to carry it, but folded up it is pretty small and I always have either a stroller or a diaper bag so I didn't bother. We've already used it a couple of times and it's been great.

Next, I decided to tackle our upstairs hallway situation. The previous tenants had really thick carpet throughout the house, and when we removed that (40 year old disgusting crumbling nasty ass) carpet, we discovered gaps under all the doors in the house. Gaps of at least an inch, sometimes two or three inches between the hardwood floors and the bottoms of the doors. Combine that with very creaky floors, and you have a s-i-t-u-a-t-i-o-n with sleeping children. We tried to remedy the situation by piling all our extra pillows into the upstairs hallway and shoving them against the bottoms of the doors.

We are nothing, if not glamorous, as you can see.

This wasn't the BEST look for an upstairs hallway. Also, in the middle of the night after feeding Josie, I'd often trip or stumble over all the stupid piles of pillows. Worse still, the dogs would decide to sleep on the piles of pillows rather than their bed, and they'd start digging around and accommodating the pillows and making MASSIVE amounts of scratching noises right up against the doorways of my sleeping children and I could have KILLED THEM. Can you tell this whole situation was anxiety-producing? Can you?

I finally resolved this by making little cushions that perfectly fit the door (or are supposed to perfectly fit the doors) in a color that coordinates with our decoration.

And here you can also see another casualty of the big puffy nasty carpets. I should really be painting trim rather than sewing cute cushions.

I made two pillows- one for Gabe and one for Josie, and on Josie's I even got fancy and made a separate little pillow that was flat and attached to the bottom of this pillow. The separate little flat pillow slides under the big gap under the door and makes it a tighter fit.

To make these pillows, I just measured and sewed a smaller sleeve within a larger sleeve. I filled the smaller sleeve with rice (to weigh down the pillow) and the larger sleeve with squishy filler (that is the technical name). Then I closed the ends. The only problem is that I didn't realize that although I'd perfectly measured the doorway, when you stuff the pillows full of the squishy stuffing, they kind of puff up and shorten a little at the ends. So the perfectly measured pillows around now about 1/2 short on either end, but whatever, it is light years better than the piles of pillows. And cute too! If you make one of these, just add on an inch to an inch and a half to your measurements to account for the puffing up factor. These were really quick, like 20 minutes if your machine doesn't keep jamming up and refusing to cooperate.

I have requested a new sewing machine for Mother's Day and now I'm just trying to finalize my decision on which relatively cheap sewing machine I am going to request. If I ever get the house ready and we actually move, I'll need it for window seats and curtains and all that fun!


Anonymous said...

You might consider a white-noise maker for each of your kid's rooms. We have the same noise issues in our house and these things have SAVED us. Now we can make as much noice as we want and live normally after they're in bed!

Swistle said...

This simultaneously makes me WANT and NOT WANT to make a quilt!

Summer said...

I haven't pulled out my (high school graduation gift) sewing machine in ages, mostly because I never learned how to thread a bobbin. But this doesn't stop me from dreaming about owning one of those fancy sewing machines that has computerized embroidery functions. Those things are COOL.

YG&B said...

i would like to put in an order for a picnic blanket. i'll pick it up when i see you next weekend. ;-) but i am serious, though.

and i second the props for a white noise machine. mine saved my life in my crappy loud UES apt in manhattan. do you want mine?

Sugar & Spice said...

That's how I feel about knitting.

I have brother sewing machine. It came from Wal-Mart a few years ago. It was around $80. and so far it's been a pretty good machine.