Piece, Love, and Baby Shower Happiness

What a week. What a couple of months. Around and around, up and down, Jane! . . . get me off this crazy thing!

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Spring is springing in Nashville, TN, and the hipsters are in full bloom. Sorry, no pictures. Fully aware that I’m stumbling, ever closer, toward the unhappy discovery of a hideous Internet photo of myself out and about in the big, red sweater, how can I ever shame another?

You think, “It’s not that bad.” You’re wrong. You are very, very wrong. I found the sweater in my in-laws’ garage, in a garbage bag, in a box, like, fifteen years ago. It is many sizes too large for me, but it is the *harsh whisper* perrrfect garrrment. It’s soft; it’s roomy; my body is a complete mystery to the average observer. The garment makes no demands; it only comforts . . .

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I recently received happy news from a dear friend, and I’m psyched about stitching something precious for the new human!

Here’s the bath towel with the matching hand towel I snagged at the Dollar Store. Yeah, Dollar Store towels are on the thin side, but that’s good: little risk if the towel flops on Baby’s face. Also, a thinner towel is easier to sew, and I’m making a hooded-towel-and-bath-mitt set. Good times. If ever there was such a thing as instant gratification sewing, this is it. The most time-consuming part of this project is finding and purchasing the towels, no joke. This gift delivers: low-cost, low labor, maximum turn-out, and maximum usefulness. I love it.

First, cut the hand towel (the smaller towel) in half.

Okay, I’m sitting at my desk with the sewing machine pushed back against the wall, propping up my tablet (where I’m writing), and it’s . . . noon. Okay. Go.

Wait, Ma’s calling (my mother), hang a sec.

. . . and it’s . . . 12:30. Okay. Go.

Later, that same day . . .

No, my sewing machine was neither threaded nor plugged in. Yes, my hand towel was already cut, BUT (ha-ha, cut-but, tee-hee, snicker) my mitt needed a bit more shaping than anticipated. You know how long it took?

Yeah, that’s a screen shot of my phone when I picked it up to see what time it was. I didn’t even rush. I goofed around with my Kindle. I stopped to take pictures, and I still enjoyed unbelievably fast piecing satisfaction. Is that crazy, or what?

So, I took one half of the hand towel (and this is the only part that’s remotely tricky in this thing) and folded back the finished edge about three-and-a-half inches. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Eyeball it. Imagine a baby’s head in there. The fold-back creates a somewhat adjustable-depth hoodie for a baby’s (child’s) epic-grow skull-size.

Now, fold it over again with “right sides facing,” with the three-and-a-half inch cuff on the inside. Sew the rough, cut edges together. After stitching and turning, the cuff of the hood will be on the outside away from Baby’s head.

Don’t get in a hurry. Trim the corner, if you need, to keep it crisp after turning out.

IMPORTANT!!!

Do not, repeat, DO NOT attempt to sew hood to towel without pinning first! Terry cloth is stretchy, and it lies, how it lies. Don’t give in to your impulse to say, “Oh, this is so easy. Who needs pins? I’m a free-wheelin’ sew-and-sew. La, la-lalla, la-llla-lla, la-laaah!”

Don’t do that.

You will sew regret it.

Make sure your insides are your insides and your outsides are your outsides. Now, Sew, my Pretties! Sew! SEW!! Aaaahhh, heh, heh, HEH!!! Seriously, you won’t have to leave much of a seam, because, here, you’re sewing through finished seams.

I just love that: such a cozy picture of my presser foot. Warms my heart. All that’s left is the mitt.

Grab that other half of the hand towel and just get jiggy with it. Sew it into any shape you want. Make it into a little pouch, shape it like a hand, whatever strikes your fancy. Have fun. Also, it’s always a good idea to run a zig-zag stitch over the rough edges of the seams. You know that terry cloth, so full of lies and soooo unravel-ly. But you should end up with something like this:

Wait, is that it? Hey! Wait a minute! Is that’s all?

Yep. That’s it. Embellish it, add stuff, monogram, go nuts! I recently had a friend tell me that this was still her son’s favorite towel, and he’s . . . hmmm . . . seven(?) eight(?) . . . sigh, they grow up so fast.

Now what?

Well, May is on its way with Mother’s Day and birthdays o’ plenty. And don’t you think for one second I have forgotten about Christmas (tiny squeal of joy in my heart).

 

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Sweets for the Sweeties

Here we are on Friday. Did you think you would make it? Not me. Well, I knew I would make it (Lord willing), but I wasn’t sure what shape I would arrive in.

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What a relief! The broomstick’s been a little shaky here and there, but no harm done. When the ride gets bumpy, I make a pie, and pie always helps. (P.S. Follow zebrakeper’s 5-star advice under ‘most helpful positive review’ below the recipe.)

Yes, my lovelies, a pie will always get you through. The pie loves you; the pie cares. Look to the pie.

I know you’re all waiting for the unveiling of the latest and greatest stitching adventure. Have no fear, but first… Let’s have a little discussion about big change. Did we already talk about this? Change is a thing that never changes. Just when I conquered the driving commute, lo! and behold, my strategy changed. I had to learn the protocol of train travel. I feel so grown up.

View from the train through the tinted window

I also survived my first office party. Okay, never, in my life have I ever seen anything like this. Sure, I whipped up a batch of peanut butter cookies, but how could they compare to something like this?

My poor lil’ cookies, how could they compete? That’s okay; I know they found a good home in somebody’s purse.

How many pieces can be patched into one little life? Most of us have more than one “I.” There’s the office me, the train me, the wife me, the home me, the mom me, the daughter me, the sister me (kind of stumbling on that one, right now), the writer me, the stitcher me, and–last, but never least–the blogger me. How about you? How many you(s) are you juggling at the moment?

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Whew, *shudders* let’s move on. After her face, hair, hat, and uniform details, my WAVE woman is ready for anything.

Yay!!! I used satin stitch on her hatband, shoe heels, tie, and clothing folds (skirt, sleeve). I thought the braids of her jacket would pop nicely with a chain stitch, and of course, french knots for the buttons. Through all the good times and the bad times with this girl, she came out looking good like a service woman should. Go ahead, enlarge on the details. I’m so proud.

While considering my next major endeavor, a little knitting. You know I can’t think without my knitting needles.

I had such a good thing going with my yarn journey, I must return to it to find my creative center. Whatever. Really, it just fits nicely in my bag o’ tricks. No matter what’s happening on the outside, I save the best for the bag, that piece of me, the real me, that can fit snugly in my pocket wherever I go. This is the primary “I,” the secret smile, the speed bump in my brain that reminds me to slow down and knit a wash cloth during lunch hour.

What’s next? Easter? Mother’s Day? Hmmm…let me think. What can we make for the bunnies and the mommies? I may have to knit a while on that one.

 

 

 

 

It’s My Bag, Baby

Still crawling through the Redwork, but it’s clipping along, now that all the special stuff is done.

I finished her head which was slow going with lots of little details. When she’s finished and pressed, I’ll post a nice look at the whole thing.

Some of you may be wondering, “Gee, now that she’s a bona fide wage slave, will she let her creative angst go unsatisfied? Will she starve her little snarky blog until it fades away with nary a farewell to the faithful?” No way! I take my creative spark along with me on my travels. Goodness! I cannot imagine a day without the soul-satisfying beauties-duties, the little joys I take along in my work bag.

img_0158These past few weeks have been so stuffed with electric change and gonzo activities, that the flame of invention briefly goes untended, but fear not! Though an occasional flicker may occur, I’m always near by with the lighter of renewal—in this case, a small, heart-covered, drawstring bag of stitching happiness. No matter how terrifying reality threatens to be, my hand work always comforts and consoles. Whatever hurts, imagination heals.

I’ve learned a few things and met a few people and gone some places in the last several weeks. Even though I’m the same, I feel different, somehow, than the person I was only a few months ago. Change is always with us, because nothing ever stays the same. That doesn’t mean I have to give up on my dream of stitching, cooking, wrapping, knitting, stapling, and writing about it. The best plan of action, for me anyway, is to stuff my dreams in a bag and bring them along.

Yeah, that’s me, a friendly cartoon cat with a bag of tricks.

Stitchin’ Time

Well, my darling ones, last week’s writing hiatus has rendered me fully prepared for the FIRST DAY OF MY NEW JOB, and a job that required a bachelor’s degree–ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!!! Woo-Hoo!!! But, wait just a minute, there. Does this mean the end of Piece Home? Heaven forbid!

Amidst the hustle and bustle of it all, I did manage to crawl through a bit more of the embroidery gauntlet.

Funny, it doesn’t look like the death of me, but, somehow, it is. I never dreamed such a seemingly simple project could become a real beast–yes, just one beastly rip-out after another. First, it was her back.

I embroidered what I thought was her back (blue highlight), but then I wondered if I had mistakenly filled in a wrinkle and should have stitched the other faint line under her arm (red highlight), instead. So, I ripped out the first one (blue) and stitched the other one (red; there really is a line, there), only to find that I had it right the first time. Alas . . .

Then came the hat.

Sure, I decided to invoke the satin stitch, a slow but worthy process. I was a completely different person when I finished the hat-band/sash-thingie, than the person I had been before I started it. I laughed; I cried.

That’s when I decided to attack the purse/satchel-whose-a-ma-whatsis.

It was all good fun until I got to the shading lines. See ’em? They’re the detail on the bag. I tried stem stitch with two strands.

No. Too lumpy.

Stem stitch with one strand?

No. One strand of floss looked, what’s the word? stickly. They looked decidedly stickly.

Finally, I settled on a back stitch with two strands, but that was after ripping out almost half of it at least twice.

I’m afraid. Somebody hold me.

And that’s where the dare I say it? DARNED thing rests, at the moment. Let this be a lesson to all of us, my pieceful friends, that we should never, ever, judge a project by mere appearance. Like books and dogs and potential jobs, a random piece of embroidery can look altogether deceptive. Do your research and never flinch from a rip-out. Be honest with yourself, first, and everything else will become much clearer.

 

Take a Little Trip

Life is an adventure, is it not?

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The trickiest question for me to answer is, “What are your short-term/long-term goals?” In the professional world, that seems to be the Big One, the daunting question that will make or break an interview. For someone like me, the concept of “goals” is a curious one because, if I’ve learned anything about life, I’ve learned that change is a certainty. No matter how good or how bad one’s immediate circumstances, they will most certainly change, given time. A goal may not exactly be a plan, but it’s close enough. I don’t trust it. While a general outline is always a good idea, a solid plan (in my world, anyway) is a solid waste of time, energy, and emotion. The minute, the minute, I entertain anything resembling a plan, rest assured, change is on the doorstep. Plans lead to expectations, and expectations will bite you in the butt, every time.

And that’s where the adventure comes into play.

Things happen, unexpected things, nice things, uncomfortable things, terrible things, but there’s always a choice. It may be a crappy choice, but a choice, nonetheless. You can open the door and walk through, or stay where you are and hope. There’s another one of those tricky words: hope. Hope is good, but it’s dangerously similar to wishing. I like the word, “faith” better. I’ve endeavored to eradicate the word “wish” from my vocabulary. Wishing is another form of expecting.

Instead of waiting around for my wishes to come true . . .

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. . . I decided that a better course of action would be to open the door and face what was on the other side. Yeah, it was kind of crappy . . .

. . . but it got better . . .

. . . a lot better.

Everybody falls down, but an adventurer gets back up. Everything breaks, but a sense of adventure, a little faith, and a lot of hard work can put the pieces back together in a whole new way. Sure, they’re funny-looking, but walking around looking like everyone else is sort of boring, don’t you think? Besides, adventurers always look a tad peculiar.

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Nothing EVER goes according to plan when you’re on an adventure, so why worry about it? Grab what you’ve got, give it a sniff, throw it in your suitcase and go. Let the boring and the uncreative hang around making plans, having expectations, and projecting goals. We’re busy being completely blown away by life.

Rut-Buster tip #1: When my house is out-of-control filthy, I find the heart of the evil (the one thing I have put off doing until it’s giving me nightmares: a closet, the bathroom, the garage, etc.) and I attack it first. The same goes for life. When I’m in a rut, I have to find the heart of the evil. What am I avoiding? What’s in my face that I refuse to acknowledge? There’s your door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stick and Move

WHAT did I DO all weekend?

I did some things; I did some things…

I worked on the pruning. I hope I didn’t kill the roses.

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After

Then, there’s the “thing” on the corner…

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After

I didn’t want to shock the poor dears. They’re used to far more TLC than I’ve been giving them, the past year-and-a-half. I must be careful not to repent too aggressively. Be brave, lil’ soldiers!

Remember Raggedy? I gave her some extensions.

No matter how tempting it is to make her into a whole, new doll, she’s best with the character she’s earned, rather than all the hair the doll spa could tie on that head. And that’s what I did; I tied it. She seems too fragile to poke with a big, giant needle, over and over, through the wig. I wove and tied fresh, red, yarn among the old, faded strands. She’s got just enough to liven the original look, not overwhelm it.

What about that red work? Huh? Where’s it?

Here:

Okay, braced and ready; lemme have it. “That’s all? That’s all you’ve done all weekend???” Yeah, that’s all I’ve done. This project could be finished in a day, no problem, but it’s one of those projects. We’ve all had them, the simple project that you decided you didn’t want to work on, anymore. Who knows why? Do you? Do any of us? I have no excuse.

But that’s me. . .

. . . turning nine-years-old in 1975.

I don’t know why I do the things I do, or don’t the things I don’t; it’s my way. I’ll finish the towel, and I will enjoy doing it, but it might take a bit longer than expected. Remember what my mom said about my only two speeds: slow and stop? In some ways, I’m a whole new doll–new hair, new dress–but I’m still the same Raggedy I’ve always been.  For all my character, I can still unravel if I’m jabbed just right. This was a very jabby week.

Here’s to keeping busy until the jabbers stop jabbing.

 

 

 

Seeing Red

Happy Thursday morning, my loves! Time to check in with the vintage WWII dishcloth. But first, let’s talk about red work.

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Here’s a random example. Not my work, but check it out!

My first embroidery project (that I remember) was started for me by my grandmother–yes, the one who taught me how to crochet. She demonstrated the stem stitch for me on an old handkerchief. I subsequently drew a little picture and outlined it in thread. Unbeknownst to me, that’s red work! This a a fantastic and easy way to decorative stitching. Because it’s relatively quick, you get that instant gratification happiness that comes with eating S’mores or riding your first Big Wheel.

 

Sorry, fellas, I had to go “girl” on this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s see what we’ve got, so far:

There she is. No camera filters on this pic. Now we can see how faded the original image is. You may need to give it a close-up, but look at that skirt pop! Red work’s popularity was slowing down during the second world war, maybe because people were too busy working in factories, or perhaps mass-produced goods were quicker and cheaper. Whatever the reason, this design is a perfect candidate for an awesome and easy technique!

“Why is it called red work when you are clearly using navy blue,” you ask? Look it up. I had a great time researching it on the web. I’m not even posting a link; that stuff is all over the place, and most of the sites are informative, instructive, and loaded with free designs. Take a look!

I want to send a big hug to my mom for the great red work reference. She sent me a note about ‘underground quilts/quilting?’ I may look into that, but today is totes busy so we’re keeping it short and sweet. Everybody make something instead of buying it, and be sure to hug your dog. That guy puts up with a lot.

A Good Flossing

This is gonna sound stupid (when has that ever stopped me?), but my biggest quandary at the moment is the prospect of pruning the shrubbery in the front yard.

If you don’t get the reference, look at this.

I have a family who can really grow things: my mom, my dad, grandparents, all of them, all of them, that is, but me. I want to do it, but I murder things. Once I laid into a hedge that actually recovered. Not so, the various rose bushes around my former home, or the small hedge in the back yard. As is often the case, I claim ignorance.

Yet, this odious task has been put off long enough, for March will soon be upon us. Sigh. But I don’t like working outdoors, or do I? Once I’m out there, the whole experience can be quite enjoyable, even rewarding–once I’m out there. Roses, how I fear them. Oh, well.

Here’s a thing:

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My friend with the linens wanted to know if I could restore this World War II/Korean Conflict era tea towel. The stencil looks much sharper in the pic than it appears in the real world. The photo was enhanced so you kids could get into the cool, retro feel of the illustration. She suggested paint, dye, or ink, but I think we need some vintage embroidery action, here. There’s nothing like a cold, wet, day with a needle-and-thread project in hand, especially when one is avoiding yard work.

I may check the Hive Mind (Internet) to see if this illustration exists in color, somewhere. Hmmm…

Nope.

That’s okay. I looked up Mildred McAfee, the first director of WAVES, a branch of the United States Navy, from WWII.

Next, I must survey my horde.

Where did I see that floss stash?

Ah, here it is.

I’m looking for navy blue (obviously), but I’m not finding. Where else…where else…?

See that greenish boot box waaayyy up there in the top of my closet, behind the World Market ginger snap cookie tin? Let’s see…

Nada. I need some cornbread.

Okay, now I can think. Looks like a trip to my local craft store is in order. Before I go, I’ll check the Collective (another nefarious term for the web) for good deals, but embroidery floss isn’t known to break the bank. I haven’t purchased any floss in a while; I hope it hasn’t gone the way of yarn. Heavens-to-Betsy, but yarn has gotten expensive!

Okay, okay, Mr. Murphy has reminded me that I’ve been super-slow to post the finished pictures of the doll bed WITH the lovely, new bedding in full bloom. Go here (also posted in the margin over there, somewhere), to get a look at the precious, precious, thing.  If this twice-a-week serving is just not enough to feed your folk-art head, I display more of my biz on the Facebook Piece Home Studio page. So, until Thursday, everybody go prune something.

Panic Moments and Junk Joys

Ahhhh . . . a project finished, and I’m ready to restock, restore, and dig up some more!

Last night, as I was looking forward to writing  today’s ditty, a had a sudden, tiny lil’ panic: what to write about?! I was so submerged in the doll bedding project that, now that it’s over, I’m having a slight identity crisis; somebody help me! Who am I?! WHO AM I??? 

Hush, now, inner creative voice. It’s time to regroup. My work room is the scene of complete devastation:

Things are piled absolutely everywhere.

And my sewing table, I’m sew ashamed…

Look at them. They’re disgusted.

No worries, the whole nasty business will soon be well in hand. Until then, it’s time to do a little digging in the local junk stores. How I love it.

Mr. Murphy and I hit a few good spots last weekend, and we came home with some goodies and some not-so-goodies. It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Okay, wait a minute, WAIT JUST A MINUTE, and hear me out. I know that we are all still getting past the last one, searching our feelings and visiting our happy places, but come on, guys. Remember how much you hated yourself last November for not preparing, sooner? Remember when you told yourself, and I quote (because I was there with you, in my heart), “Next year, blah, blah, won’t wait so late, blah, blah, last minute, blah, blah, Grandma’s fruitcake recipe.” You said it, and you know you did, because it is a fact.

As much as we hate to admit it, we love to win at Christmas. Why do we feel so complete when everyone is warm, fed, and drunk on Yuletide love? It’s a mystery, but you’ll remember my words, later, as you sit weeping in your car in the angry, over-crowded Bed, Bath, and Beyond parking lot. With that chastisement still fresh on my typing fingers, behold the second-hand treasures:

Every first Saturday of the month, Goodwill marks everything half-price. I know, I know, I’ve heard the rumor about  the CEO’s grotesquely inflated income from reselling donations (the reality is still a bit excessive), but I can’t stop myself when it comes to a-dollar-a-basket and Martha Stewart’s hearth-and-home prowess. Whatever your feelings toward her, that woman is a BOSS.

I’m already scoping out examples of vintage embroidery on the Internet, preparing for my next big adventure: the restoration of a tea towel!!! Woo-hoo!!! *crickets* No, really, it’s going to be a blast from the past with a cool story to go with; I promise. Until Monday, keep an eye out on my Facebook for the latest pics on the new work-in-progress.

Sad Times for Mr. Stinky

Spring is coming. I can feel it, and so can the skunks. Lately, we have enjoyed the February aroma of the sleepy, stupified, local skunk population staggering out of their nests for a bite to eat. They’re not altogether with it, so sadly, there are casualties. After smelling Mr. Stinky about his business for the last week or so, my husband encountered his flat self, or one of his unfortunate associates, squished on the road, this morning. Poor Mr. Stinky. Moral of the story: don’t let spring fever catch you foraging on the wrong side of the road.

Remember the restored antique doll bed commission?

I got some stuff together and started it last Thursday.

Okay, I had to buy the padding, but can you guess where the rest came from ? I know, I know, I ended a sentence with a preposition.

Sure . . . sure . . . I had that stuff. Maybe it was the awesome spring mojo kicking in, but this project seemed to make itself. After the tiny stitching nightmare (did I say nightmare? No nightmare) of small doll making–and there are smaller ones, out there–I was in fine shape for some long, straight stitches.

We’ve got some ticking and jute . . . 

. . . some old linen . . .

. . . some old lace . . .

. . . a little patchwork . . . 

. . . and we’re good to go. 

Now that this project is wrapping up, I get to finish Raggedy; remember her? This is a real labor of love, something very close to my heart.

It’s always good to find your way back home. Watch out for cars.

If you want more photos and/or updates between Monday and Thursday (or Thursday and Monday), take a look right here. Yeah, okay, this episode was a little boring; I know, but only because I have sew much on my mind, my darling ones. More on that, later.

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