Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Ever-Growing Pile

It happens to the best of us.  You have 15+ projects going on at the same time, all of them at different levels of completion.  Some are aaaalllllllmost done.  Some you just started.  Some are still in the planning stages.  But they are all sitting out, demanding your attention.  And you have good intentions - just far too little time.  In my case, that happens when my younger son is sick or has a migraine, or has weekend after weekend of competitions (with tons of rehearsal time thrown in), when I have a busy week on-call at work, and when he has multiple doctor appointments and medical tests to get done.  Since I last posted, I've had all of the above.

And the Sewing Assistant was trying to help, honest.

I had to bring home some work from my on-call job today, so I had to clear off my worktable in order to pin the hems.  I was pretty frustrated looking at the HUGE pile of UFOs, and figured that after this job went back to work (which it did, about three hours ago) I'd leave that table clear for the time being.  When I started pulling the paper backing off the fabric banners, the Sewing Assistant heard the crinkling and figured he was being paged.

This is the back of the fabric banner with some of the hem pinned in place.  You can see how thin this material is, since you can see the photo from the other side!
I had stacked three of the banners on the piano while pinning this one - but Neko figured this meant he needed to be a pattern weight again and sat on top of them.  I kept lifting him off and setting him on the floor, because I didn't want him to tear or puncture the delicate fabric.  He was not happy, and ended up moping around for quite awhile.

"Hmmmph!  I kin not haz ANY fun."
Sad Face.  I poutz. 

I had to laugh, the pouting was that funny - then I had to get the camera because suddenly he started resembling a stranded seal.  I need to teach this guy how to jog.  Or how to eat salad.  Maybe both. 

Neko will be one year old on April 10th - I'm considering throwing him a party and inviting everyone he's ever made laugh - and that's a lot of people.  He's a funny cat.  A rotten Assistant, but good company.

Here's another banner I got to work on this past week (so can I say I helped in some small measure?):

My minor contribution - the hemming - is not done yet in this shot.

Don't forget to make a contribution somehow, some way.  

I repaired two band jackets after finishing up the girlfriend's tiger.  No photos, but two very happy customers.  Son #2 also requested a new jacket after seeing the dragon and the tiger, and would like his to have the matching wolf embroidery from the set.  

That UFO pile just keeps getting bigger.  I don't understand it.  

The newest sock is progressing nicely - I'm just about to finish up the heel flap and turn the heel - I love that part; like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says - it makes me feel really, really smart every time I do it!  I was hoping to have the pair done by the end of March.  Doesn't look like it's going to happen, though.

This color-changing yarn makes me look wicked genius. 

Ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!

I'm learning how to strand two colors two-handed ( - so my tension isn't even and you can see where the carried strands pull and make sort of a raised effect right down the middle there - that actually happens across each pair of double-pointed needles, so four times total around the sock.  Bummer.  I'm hoping it won't show much once it's on.  I'm actually hoping it FITS once it's on - in spite of downsizing the needles to make it smaller, it still looks like it should fit my calf and part of someone else's.  Maybe I'll stuff Neko into it.  Nah, that'll just stretch it out until it looks like a Christmas stocking.  

More projects (hopefully finished) next time.  If I can move the Assistant, that is.  


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whoops, I Did It Again

But not Britney Spears style.  And I wasn't singing at the time, either.

Scheduled: work on the jacket for the girlfriend today, planning to get it done before my son went out to dinner with her family for her birthday.  Most of the day was taken up by errands, though, including one to get more embroidery thread.  I learned yesterday that these designs need at least a spool and a half of whatever color I'm using (it's a one-color design), so I figured I'd get an extra spool before I even started.  Only that necessitated finding out exactly what color the girlfriend would want on the jacket, without telling her what she was selecting it for.  HA!  I left that conundrum up to my son - which meant I couldn't go to the fabric store until he came back from walking her to school.

Round One:  before I could get the thread - chiropractor appointment for me and for my younger son (whom the chiropractor has nicknamed "Gumby," since he is so incredibly flexible), and then a quick trip to Ikea to eat breakfast and browse entertainment center ideas (a recon mission - my husband HATES to shop, so I have to do all the legwork in advance and present him with a couple of options).  Stopped at Joanns on the way back and bought the extra thread the girlfriend liked, then headed home to start work.  Only I didn't have much time - younger son needed to be up to the high school for an impromptu sectional rehearsal.  Knowing how long the design would take, I decided not to start it yet so I wouldn't have to leave it - and just worked on my sock until it was time to go.  I dropped my son off, then came back home to eat lunch and start sewing.  I had just hooped up the girlfriend's jacket and sat down to sew when I got another call - apparently, my son didn't need to be there for another hour and I needed to pick him up again.  So, back I go.  Got home, checked my email while he was doing some studying & eating lunch, and got a message from a client that she wanted a different length of zipper.  Darn.  Should have checked my email sooner.

Round Two:  Dropped younger son off again at the high school, swung by the gas station to turn over most of my last paycheck, went to Joanns again to exchange the zipper (and no, they were not surprised to see me again - they are quite used to my erratic ways now), came home, rehooped the hoodie three times (my brain was temporarily out of order), and sat down to sew when the phone rang again.  It's the younger son; sectional rehearsal is done and he needs a ride home.  And now it's raining cats & dogs.

Round Three:  pick up the younger son, then back home again. I set up the embroidery and get the machine started.  This time, I decide to sit down and supervise the embroidery all the way through so that I don't end up with another embroidery hoop/bobbin/throat plate cluster-explosion on my hands.

So far, so good!

Older son finally gets home (soaking wet - he rode his 250cc scooter to college and didn't realize it was supposed to rain) and I tell him to clean up while the embroidery is finishing up.  About ten minutes, I say.
I should have known - I opened my mouth and THAT was all it took - with ten minutes to go before I needed to wrap the gift, and only the head left of the tiger to do - BAM!  That familiar clanking sound starts up again and I can tell by the upper thread that there is a problem - it is looking a bit wonky, skipping stitches, and there is that suspicious clankity clankity sound.  I stop the embroidery, thanking myself for not hooping it the same way as yesterday (this time I did NOT hoop the jacket, just the stabilizer), check the upper thread, the bobbin thread (thinking maybe I ran out, but no...), and setting everything back into place I started the machine again.  CLANKITY CLANKITY CLANKITY CLANKITY CLANK CLANK CLANK CLANK CLANK!!!!!!!  Whoa, Nelly!  This time I stopped the machine, cut the threads, pulled the hoop off the assembly (without unhooping the jacket), turned it over, and Oh.  My.  Gawd.

The underside of the embroidery.  That is NOT fuzzy yarn.  That is yards, and yards, and yards of rats' nest cluster-clucked RUINED THREAD AND THROAT PLATE TRAPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL.
Ugh.  One.  More.  Time.  Had to send my apologies with my son to his girlfriend, since her gift wasn't going to be there until tomorrow morning.  Then I spent the next half hour very carefully clipping little, tiny, shiny threads.  Snip, snip, snip.  From the bottom.  Snip, snip, snip.  From the top.  Yank.  Pull.  Snip.  Yank.  And repeat.  My work room trash can looks like I gave a crew cut to a couple of Troll Dolls.

I get all the thread out.  I rethreaded the machine, rethreaded the bobbin, put the bobbin case & the throat plate back into place, put the hoop back in, backed up the stitch count to where it first started "nesting," and started up the machine again.

Clank clank clank clank clank STOP - OH NO YOU DON'T, NOT AGAIN!  

< pause >

When all else fails, change the stupid needle.  It probably got ruined clunking around the throat plate.

Bada bing, bada boom!  That was the ticket!  The rest of the embroidery buzzed along with no further interruptions.  Sometimes what seems like the biggest problem often has the simplest solution.

One Daring Damask Tiger, sneaking out of the jungle foliage!
Said tiger is now wrapped up, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting birthday girl.

Next up:  finally - a photo of the faux fair isle sock, and then....younger son has requested the wolf design in this same design pack for the back of his favorite jacket.  

I'm gonna keep extra needles handy.  Just sayin'.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Birthday Gift Gone Wrong

Been a Hella Week, what with the slew of medical testing and another new specialist (cardiologist) for my son.  In the middle of that somewhere, he had a drumline competition that he managed to get through - right before he got slammed with another migraine.  It's been three days now and he's still fighting it, but he went to rehearsal today.  I figured I'd take advantage of the free time to help my older son prepare birthday gifts for his girlfriend (she turns sweet 16 tomorrow).  I asked him what he thought she would want or could use, and he mentioned that she could use a new hoodie type jacket.  Having just gotten a birthday email from one of my favorite online embroidery design companies (Embroidery Library) that offered me a coupon for either $10 off or 50% off embroideries of my choice, the proverbial lightbulb went on - here was a chance to order some designs I'd been looking at, get them at a pretty substantial discount, and make a custom jacket for her birthday gift!  See, turning 50 does have its advantages.  My son chose which design to use, then we went out to get a hoodie jacket from the local 5 For $10 T-Shirt store ($13 for a pretty nice one - not bad).

After he took off for his college class, I went to Joanns Fabrics to get the embroidery thread color he requested - they just happen to have all Guttermann thread at 40% off right now - BONUS!  When I came home I ordered the design packs (and a couple of designs for me, like a SOCK MONKEY!), downloaded them, then unzipped the files & saved them in the right format for my embroidery machine.  It would be cool if all embroidery machines used similar platforms, but no - each company is so proprietary that they make the PC vs Mac war look like a backyard squirt-gun fight.  I'm not even going to tell you how much the software costs to be able to convert these files to use in my machine - you're just going to have to trust me when I tell you it's embarrassingly obscene.  It is pretty nifty software, though, and it also allows me to take any kind of design, from a gif to a jpeg to a hand-drawn picture, and digitize it so my machine can sew it out.  I've had it for a couple of years and still haven't learned everything about it.  It's the gift that keeps on giving, LOL!

You all know about Murphy's Law, right?  I figured I'd test sew one of the designs using my own jacket, just in case....

Onwards and Dragon-wards!

and sure enough, right in the middle of the embroidery (you know, the one with 34,795 stitches) the hoop popped apart, the embroidery arm had nothing to move around, the design started sewing a HUGE rats' nest where it was stuck in the fabric, which then resulted in such a buildup of thread that it literally blew out the bobbin case cover & the throat plate before I could stop the machine.  Sigh.  I was lucky I didn't permanently damage everything.  About an hour's worth of clipping stitches and hand-picking out all the thread later....I had a devil of a time getting the jacket hooped up in exactly the same spot so I was sweating bullets when I started up the machine again.  Only it wouldn't start.  It kept giving me an error message about not having the right size hoop installed.  I tried everything, but it kept giving me the same message.  Bummer.  When all else fails, reboot.  And cross your fingers.  After rebooting the machine, I reloaded the design, forwarded the stitching to where I thought it first started screwing up, and pressed START - and realized that when the hoop had popped open, the design had started stitching out of the path it was supposed to have taken, and there was no way on God's green earth I was going to get it to line up right.  Oh, well.  You win some, you lose some.  At around the 32,000 stitch mark, I realized I was running out of the embroidery thread.  Sigh.  I paused the machine again, looked everywhere for a matching thread, found one that was matte instead of shiny (but about the same color), loaded that up (SIGH), pressed START and let it run until it was done.

The finished Damask Dragon in all its awesomeness! Wonky colors and misplaced stitching notwithstanding. 

Amazingly enough, it looks okay.  Not perfect, but okay.  And I learned a lot.  Only problem is, I know for sure now that I won't have enough thread to do the birthday design, it's 11:30 pm, and I can't get to the store to get more thread until tomorrow morning.  Which turns out to be okay anyway, as older son came in about an hour ago and changed his mind about what color he thought she would like for her design anyway.  (SIGH.)

And where was the sewing assistant all this time, you are wondering?  Dude bailed on me.  No wonder I couldn't keep it all under control - he decided to moonlight as a plumbing assistant.

It may look like he's getting his head sawn off, but I can assure you that wasn't the case. Not intentionally, anyway. 

He is SO fired.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Finished Totoro - and More Sewing Assistant Nonsense

My son's girlfriend and I finally finished her gift to my son a few weeks ago, and I almost forgot - I hadn't posted a photo of the finished product!  By the time she was about halfway through the figure, her crocheting had relaxed and was a lot more even.  If you looked at it, you could figure out where she started and where she finished, based on the difference in tensions - but you have to remember, he ain't gonna care.  He was thrilled to death that she made him something like this herself!

The finished Totoro

Totoro close-up! 
For someone with very limited crocheting experience, I think she did a bang-up job!  Her mother crocheted the white stomach part - LOL - look at the grey body vs the white part - same size hook, same size yarn.  TOTALLY different tensions!

If you haven't seen My Neighbor Totoro, you can NetFlix it (maybe even instant view, I'm not sure).  It's a typically Japanese animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki.  I believe he's been determined a national treasure by the Japanese, but you could look that up.  If you can, get the Japanese version with English subtitles - it's way better than either of the English dubbed versions.  Here's a quick look at some of the characters:

One of the little girls - Satsuki - her friend Totoro behind her, and behind both of them - Neko Basu (Cat Bus)!
What's that?  You recognize that name from somewhere?  Of course you do.  That's where The Chunk  Neko (The Sewing Assistant) got his name!  Which he literally grew into - pun intended!

Speaking of the "little" dickens, he quite handily kept me from working on my purse yesterday.  

His thought balloon would read:  "You were gonna do some sewing?  HEE, HEE, HEE, HEE, HEE, HEE, HEE!  NOT!!!!"
Pattern and Fabric Inspector, at your service!  (Now, doesn't he resemble the Kitty Bus in this shot?  Look at that Wide Body!)
Look, Ma!  I'm a pattern weight!  Or a Cat Bus! Or both!
My best Gargoyle impersonation!

Only pretending to sleep...

You didn't need this pattern piece, did ya?  Nom, nom, nom, nom.....

Oh, "OOOPS!"  (Heh, heh, heh!)

WHEEEEE!  Come back here, you!  FWIP!

Now watch my sleight of hand PAW! (Shred, shred, shred, shred, shred....)
Darned if he doesn't look like he's shuffling a deck of cards, casino-style. 

Rrrrrrrip!  Chomp!  PTOOOEEEYYY!  (Thought balloon:  "Just doin' my job, just doin' my job!")

Sigh.  The aftermath.  Excuse me while I go look for the Scotch Tape.  And yes, that is cat spit.

The drum covers (the huge pile of black fabric behind Neko in the first couple of shots) are thankfully on hold for the time being - the blue drums didn't clash as much as we thought they would against their new uniforms.  Of course, that doesn't mean the instructors might not change their minds.  At the last minute.  Right before we go to Nationals in Dayton, Ohio.  << hides >>

The purse?  Well, I guess it will keep for another day or two.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Before You Hoist That Green Beer....

You might consider putting the cost of one or two frosty mugs toward helping the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  You might be a little less tipsy, but it's for a good cause:

If you'd like to donate, but would like to help support grass roots efforts (with the possibility of winning something homemade, crafty, and awesome), check out these sites:  (I guarantee this one will have you scrambling for the Kleenex)

See?  People like you and me, who really want to help - they are reaching out to friends and blog peeps, everyone wanting to do something, ANYTHING, to help the people of Japan.  It's amazing what you can do, even if you think you are "only one person."

Move a little out of your comfort zone, in order to bring comfort to those in dire need.  The Japanese Red Cross has not "officially" requested help from the American Red Cross, but the ARC wants to be action-ready when the call does come.  And there is no way it won't.  There is just too much devastation.  Too much loss.  Too many needs.

When you're done, hoist that beer a little higher, knowing you did something good for others.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

As If I Needed A Reason

I was strolling through Blog-Land today and stumbled upon a site that had me sitting bolt upright:

I have an alarming accumulation of paper crafting supplies as well as rubber stamps.  I think if I set all my rubber stamps end-to-end, I could probably get to the moon and back in short order.  Embarrassing, I know.  There was a time when I did rubber stamping projects almost daily. When my son was having a particularly rough patch of health issues and required some pretty serious surgery, though, the crafting sort of fell by the wayside.  A year earlier, I had also had some surgery on my right shoulder, which left me with the rather unpleasant diagnosis of RSD or CRPS.  Not many people know about this disorder and I don't like discussing it because it is pretty complicated, very painful, and there are no known cures (and only mildly palliative pain management in my case).  You can read about it here if you'd like to know more:  Fast forward to 2008, and I had yet again another major surgery which knocked me out of commission for about six months....and all of this added up to a loss of interest (and some ability) to make cards and other things.

I had rebuilt the interior of my craft room right before my son had his surgery and had put in an upper and lower cabinet set with a worktop, intending for it to be a rubber stamping workstation.  And it's lovely.  Only, it hasn't seen any action since it was built.  (Insert sad face here.)

So, maybe it's time to turn that frown upside down, de-stash a bit, get a little creative (within Operation Write Home's guidelines, very important to read if you're interested in participating), and do some good.  Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

Some samples of things I've done in the past (and I will probably send at least a couple of these along with the new ones):

The inside of this one reads: "Happy Birthday to an Ancient Artifact!"

Images by Stampin' Up

Images by Stampin' Up

Images by Stampin' Up

Images by Stampin' Up

I think this is a project worth pursuing, don't you?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Part Two

Ahhh, here we are on day 2 of the Anniversary Celebration!  Yes, I know there was a day in between the flower delivery and the dinner tonight, but I'm grateful for the lull - I needed time to get this one together for them!

My son isn't working a steady job right now.  He is concentrating on school and when he has spare time, he likes to tinker around and fix up old scooters & motorcycles to resell.  He doesn't make much at it yet, just a little here and there.  So when he approached me with an idea to have a fancy dinner here at the house to celebrate their first anniversary as a couple rather than blowing what little money he had on an expensive restaurant, I realized he'd ended up with a pretty good head on his shoulders after all!

I bought the tablecloth this afternoon at the Assistance League and borrowed the topper and the wrought iron chairs from a neighbor.  The tablecloth needed some reworking to make it fit the round table in the backyard, so I set to this task, aided by my trusty Sewing Assistant:

Let's see, maybe if we pick out the hem here.....

...and cut it right about here.... them together again to make a square, and we should be good to go!
Wait - what do you mean, I need to move?

After I shook off the Sewing Assistant and finished the tablecloth, I went to Trader Joe's again and bought everything they needed for a fancy dinner:  Fettuccini Alfredo, garlic toast, sparkling blueberry juice, and cheesecake; I also picked up another small bouquet for a table arrangement. I added carrots from our garden, along with corn we already had in the freezer.  All in all, it was a fancy restaurant style dinner and dessert, and it only set him back about $20 total!  

Would have looked a whole lot better if our patio wasn't in such sad shape!  They'll be eating after sunset, so maybe they won't be able to see all the cracks & such!  If I hadn't had to run back & forth to the high school to work on drumline uniforms, I would have lit up the ficus trees with white Christmas lights - that would have made it totally awesome.  Maybe next time!

The bouquet - around $6 - and believe it or not, I bought these candle holders at a dollar store! 

My ludicrous napkin-folding skillz! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

Sparkling blueberry "juice beverage."  LOL!!!

My son added the crystal framed photo of them from last year's prom - I thought that was a really nice touch!

Ok, so someone forgot to let them know to get dressed up for this fancy dinner.  
Well, maybe they ARE dressed up - if you look closely, you can see that they are both wearing plaid jeans......LOL!
They enjoyed the dinner very much and are now sacked out in front of the TV watching a movie.  I think it was a success!
(How do you like that $5 tablecloth?  Happy Dance!)
Got a couple of inches of the marvelous sock done yesterday and this morning - will put that in a post tomorrow, cuz I love that self-patterning yarn and it's amazing how it is mimicking Fair Isle knitting when combined with the solid color!  Right now I have to get going on black drum covers for Sunday's competition - the uniforms are black and burgundy, but our new drums are blue - you think they could have thought about that color clash a little sooner?  Like, when they were ordering the uniforms?  I mean, it's not like we haven't had the drums since the fall season or anything..... Wish me luck, I might be pulling a couple of all-nighters on this one......

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crafting At The Last Minute

It's the story of my life.  I've worked pretty hard throughout my life, learning as much as I can when I can about crafty and artistic things that interest me; I work to perfect my skills and make things that look as professional as I can manage, anyway.  And for what?  So that when I get a panicky, last-minute text from my 19-year-old in the middle of one of his college classes, I can spring into action.  Well, as much as I can spring these days, at any rate.

"Mom, I'm probably going over to (girlfriend)'s house right after class, and it's our first anniversary - where can I get some flowers (at 6:45 pm)?"  If you're like me, you're probably wondering how he could POSSIBLY have left it until 15 minutes before he was supposed to be over at her house, right?  But then, we are talking about a male, here.

"No worries, Trader Joe's has decent, fresh flowers that won't cost you too much.  I need to go over there to get some fish for dinner (it being Ash Wednesday and all) anyway, I'll just pick some flowers up for you while I'm there.  Bouquet or centerpiece arrangement?"

"Centerpiece style, roses if you can.  Thanks, Mom!!! : D"

Well, they had small roses wrapped up with other flowers, so I picked up another mixed bouquet and brought them home.
Gotta love Trader Joe's!
Added some leather ferns from our yard, a gift from a neighbor that had removed them from their yard during a house renovation.
Love these, but wish my hubby would stop cutting them back so far.  I always need more!

45 minutes later:

Voila!  First Anniversary arrangement!
The flexible paper at the bottom added a bit of color punch, and was tucked into two of the bouquets from the store - she can remove it if she wants and there is a sturdy flower container - pick those up at the 99 cent store when I see them.  So I can give them away like this.  : )

Some of the flowers got a little washed out in this shot, so here are some close-ups (because you never get tired of looking at flowers, right?):

Had to add the freesia - it was a little yellow for this bouquet but smelled so divine!

Some of the larger roses & some lilies & berries from the mixed bunch.

Some miniature roses & alstromeria - aren't they sweet?

Now how could he possibly go wrong with this? 
Crafty moms rock.  (LOL!)