29 January, 2010

Class re-cap: Quilting with Mary Lou Weidman

The final week of our three Advanced Weeks culminated with a dilemma: my first two choices were full, and since my life's skill set has been cultivated to be spread as widely and diversely as possible, I really was not advanced enough to be in anything. I reckoned that Quilting was a safe bet, as I've had one weekend quilting class, and have been working on that hand-sewn English Paper Piecing project, and oh yes, I spent about 5 years of my life sewing garments in high school and university theatre costume departments.

What I didn't know about the quilting class was that it was being taught by a very famous quilter (Mary Lou Weidman) who has a very distinct style, and most of the other students in her class had been in other classes of hers and knew exactly what to expect. I was the complete opposite! I showed up thinking I was going to make a functional, washable quilt, and Mary Lou had planned the week to be sort of an art-quilt/ story-quilt wall hanging type of class. Oops. Luckily for me, Mary Lou and her assistant Kathy came prepared to help all of the students achieve their own goals, and when I said I'd rather make a useable quilt, they were totally fine with it. So the rest of the class was doing really intense applique stuff, and I was piecing an invention of Mary Lou's, called... wait for it... "Hoochy Mama" quilting. I have to admit, through the fault of my being in my late 20's, that this name is hideously embarrassing for me to be batting about in conversation, say, in the dining hall ("what'd you do today?" "Uh, I made some Hoochy Mama squares..."), but the name apparently came from a sweet old lady who would yell "HOOCHY MAMA!" everytime she finished something, rather than the "you ain't nothing but a hoochie mama/ hoodrat hoodrat hoochie mama" that we all had to hear over and over in the 90's (thanks, 2 Live Crew!). Although I have to admit it was pretty funny to me that every time Mary Lou said the word "hoochy mama" in class, my internal juke box bellowed "BIG BOOTY HOES! Up wid it!" It was all I could do to not yell it out loud. I mean, I didn't even know I remembered that song.

Anyway, in the quilting world, thanks to Mary Lou's book and workshops, to hoochy a block is to deliberately misalign the corners of the fabrics you're piecing, which renders measuring pretty much unnecessary and careful sewing a thing of the past. WHICH IS AWESOME. All those semesters in high school when I wanted to make up my own pattern and the teacher told me it just was not possible, that such a thing would be a veritable sewing sin? Totally vindicated now.

Enough words, let's take a look at what I made. Here's the front, which is a pattern called (I think) hoochy stars, using fabric I bought on Saturday in Asheville with Sarah. Here's the first step:
quilt step 2: lay it all out
(What I did was cut all the purple 4" squares and put them up on a design board, then I'd take down four from each nine-block group and hoochy some green points onto them.)

Then I took the middle four out and added orange diamonds, hoochied of course.
quilt step 3: add some centers
(See how the corners are all catty-wampus? That's on purpose.)

Then I finally got to sew all those seams together! Now it starts to look like a real quilt top:
quilt step 4: sew the seams up!

Here's the top without its border. Note how the orange really pops out at you, because it's the only bright color:
the front, without the border

Now check it with the border:
the front of my quilt: done!
Now that's a quilt! I love it. I also quilted the back, just because the top was done halfway through the week and I didn't know what else to do with my time.
the back of my quilt: done!
(You guessed it: those are hoochy hearts.)

Mary Lou actually blogged about our class here, complete with pictures of everyone in our class and their projects. She even wrote a little paragraph about me!

24 January, 2010

300 Posts!

I just realized that I reached 300 posts here about, oh, three posts ago. I didn't celebrate when I got to 200, but I did do a little capsule update on the 100th Postiversary (which was April 16, 2007-- and it's crazy that that is over two years ago. What the heck?)

To celebrate, I'm reposting what I wrote on that day in April, from the snowy spring in Vermont, with updaty-type comments in bold. This is completely narcissistic, but isn't that what blogging is, in its truest form? Read on if you're interested, all 9 of you.

***** ***** ***** whooshing you back to 2007***** ***** *******
(me, then-- pretty much exactly the same as me, now)

You are all invited to my 100 Posts celebration, in celebration of the fact that I've now posted 100 times to this blog.
When: Now
Where: Here
RSVP: you just did!
Wow, thanks for coming, everyone. Here's a quick update:

-I am being flown down to Williamsburg for a job interview at a most excellent Montessori school, which would be grand for several reasons, the top reasons being a) the job title includes lots of creative artistic work being done with younger children and b) it's full time with benefits and c) the director seems like someone I would very much like to work with and she understands a living-and-working synthesis that I would like very much for my life and d) it's in Williamsburg, close to the campus where Kenny will be squeezing out his brains every day. So, here's hoping I am suave and smooth and relaxed come the interview weekend. (Dude, I got that job and loved it, and am still loving it, albeit from afar, temporarily. So glad that one worked out as smoothly as it did. Here's to at least one more great year at WMS.)

-I'm in Princeton right now, hanging out with people that I like and care for very much, enjoying a respite from the snows of Vermont. (Ahh, Princeton! How sad that the Shimizu clan has moved on from your hallowed streets. It still hasn't really hit me that my future Father- and Step Mom-in-law have moved to the West Coast. I miss it and them very much.)

-I've been doing some hot glass work in the basement, which makes me feel good, since it was such a financial investment to set up my own studio. (See very recently posted entry for the extreme happiness it brings me to finally have come back to this.)

-let's see... oh yes, have successfully knit two pairs of socks (one for me, one baby-sized which will be mailed off to a Canadian-Vietnamese baby quite soon) (Alisa and Duy now have two daughters. Holy crap. There's nothing like someone else's baby to make you wonder what the heck you've been doing with your time...)

-I weathered a stomach-flu (not mine) last week, and am always proud of myself when I manage to manage someone else's vomiting without screaming and running away. I was actually quite maternal and caring. Sweet. (Ah, yes, that time when Kei threw up for 24 hours straight, just totally cementing the fact that I will not ever eat peas. Not that I was uncertain about that at any point, mind you.)

-I reckon that's it for now. Life is good. (And it still is.)

Thanks for reading! See you at 400?

Clicking (the mouse kind and the sticks kind) for good

I just stopped by to blog about the amazing Haiti relief effort that Ravelry is conducting: all sorts of indy designers are donating part of the profits from their pattern sales and all you have to do (if you're on Ravelry) is click here to see which patterns are specially tagged as being part of the effort. Once you're there you can see which tagged patterns are already in your queue, and do some pattern shopping that not only supports the disaster relief efforts AND indy knitwear designers but that also helps you stay an organized knitter/crocheter. Triple win.

I found three Haiti-tagged patterns that I've been meaning to buy, and had put them in my queue at some point in the past few months, so I bought them using my PayPal account (which is staying in the black because of other people who buy handmade from this independent craftster. Are we using the internet in the best way possible or what?!) Here are the patterns I chose to buy:

End of May Mittens by Mandy Powers (Rav link)
(Loved these from the moment I saw them. Stranded colorwork in worsted weight? Only one ball of each color and you're done with the set plus enough left over to make a hat? Yes, please.)

Veyla by Ysolda Teague. Enough said. (Rav link) I told my bestest Vermonter bridesmaid that I would knit her a pair of these, like, forever ago. Sorry Jules! But look, maybe it'll happen now that I've finally bought the pattern!

Ahh, the marvelous squirrel. Always so cute, sometimes white (Brevard) or black (Princeton), usually misspelled (by me). These Squirrel Sampler Mittens from Hello Yarn caught my fancy because they're lined, and you can put a name or date on the front. Perfect. (Rav link).

Ahhh, retail therapy! Because of my New Years Resolution #2, of course, I won't be knitting up any of these mittens for awhile now (and oh my god, I just now realized I bought three mittens patterns. Seriously, it did not occur to me at all during the oggling/purchasing spree that they were ALL FREAKING MITTENS. Awesome. Must do more shopping at night.) So once I finish my wedding shawl, and the crazy Fair Isle cardigan, and the brown yoke pullover, I may indeed cast on for one--or all-- of these.

Now go, do some supporting of your own.

Class re-cap: Advanced Glass Beads with Kimberely Adams

1st day's bounty

Advanced weeks are somewhat tricky for hosts: as we can only register the Tuesday before classes begin, we are limited to only those classes with space available. And during advanced week, this means we need to have a short list of several classes we're advanced enough to get into, most of which require specific previous experience. Fortunately, there were two open spaces in Kim Adams' lampwork class and both Conway and I managed to get in! It was a total dream. All day, from after breakfast to late at night, I did nothing (no, really, nothing) but work at regaining the skills that I let atrophy away in the past 2.5 years or so since I've been able to set up my torch. (Which was last used in the basement of Ken's Mom's Vermont home for two blissful and chilly months before being packed away in a box, where it currently still resides. Poor torch.)

So anyway, it was great to be able to stretch my glass muscles (not literally) and make my fingers remember how to gather, wind on, center, add stringer and dots, manipulate edges into the perfect dimple, etc. Kim's class was geared, of course, to the way more advanced bead maker, and she brought lots of far out expensive stuff for us to play with. I made a bead with fine silver wire melted around in in strings of tiny metal beads; beads with colored cubic zirconia shoved into their sizzling centers; and beads with silver tubing inserted into their 1/4" holes and then tamped down on the outside rims, making it seem as if the beads were made around a hollow silver mandrel and then magically detached. Other things I could have chosen to do was electroforming (involving painting my bead with some sort of copper and then lowering it into a container of blue fluid with a battery charger in it, which makes it look, er, different), or I could have fumigated my beads with either silver or gold something-or-other, adding a metallic sheen to the outsides. As you can tell, I mostly paid attention to the basic bead skills, enjoying greatly this new technique: scale beads. Ooh! Observe:
scale bead 3
Scale bead, worked from outsides in
Scale bead 2
scale bead 1, from the top
That last one is my absolute favorite. Conway's torch was stationed right next to mine, and I couldn't help but be influenced by his rapturous fascination with making hollow beads. I'd attempted a few of these in the past, with great beginner's luck, but because of my poor annealing set up in the Vermont basement, i hadn't done any since my first time at the Folk School which had to be at least 5 years ago. So my first few were failures, but one night towards the end of the week, I was talking to one of my best friends and fellow bead maker Lauren, who randomly said, "hey, make a hollow bead and stick one of those crystals on the fattest part," and so i did. And it worked!

I made a hollow bead! And it has a cubic zirconium embedded on it. Yay for improving skills.

Aw yeah. Here are some other beauties from the week:
1st day's bounty, cleaned
Traded these beads for over 25 fat quarters of fabric
dot practice
Rainbow dots: I need to practice dot uniformity.
Random bead lesson: how to make a dancing man with dot cloaking
bicone practice
dot practice
Two beauties that I sold

I'm very happy with them, but most of all I'm pleased to have gotten such a great week of bead-making boot camp. I feel like I'm back in the game. Which is great, because one week from today, I'll be in Tony Prince's Free-Form Flamework class! I've been looking forward to taking Tony's class again for years. But before we get there, I've got a dreamy week of feltmaking to complete. I know, I know: my life is awesome.

20 January, 2010

This Blog is Overdue

13 days since my last post? Seriously? What the heck am I doing with my time, anyway? You know, besides taking a class each week and hosting in the spare seconds and planning a wedding on top of that... oh, whatever, you know I'm not really that busy. It just feels that way sometimes. Also, I've been going to bed earlier these days and thusly my blogging has slowed.

I have dance practice in 15 minutes, so this is a quicky teaser:

Visiting a local alpaca farm;

Trying my hand at "hoochy mama" quilting-- don't ask, I'll explain soon;

And painting new apartments/sampling champagnes (can this be filed under wedding research?)

07 January, 2010


Today it snowed in Brasstown! Doesn't it look just like powdered sugar? Apparently this doesn't happen too often around here (despite the 13" accumulation, aka the Snowpocalypse, which happened a mere 2 hours NE of here in Asheville), so everyone is excited. I am excited because when it started falling, it was no ordinary snowfall: I guess the wetness + the coldness was just at that perfect point to create SNOW CRYSTALS THAT LOOKED LIKE MINIATURE STARS. I am not even kidding. At first I thought someone was throwing handfuls of die-cut confetti from the treetops because seriously, these little tiny perfect stars all over the ground? Simply unbelievable. LOOK!

(So sorry for the horrible iPod closeups.) Aren't they magical? Don't they look like stars? Well, stars and sea salt.

I took these photos as I walked back from the glass beads class, who very kindly let me come watch so I can start getting excited about next week. You know, I've been so patient... letting my bead frenzy lie dormant while the past 2 years have just ticked by, waiting for me to have an appropriate space to set up my torch... but as of today the desire for melting and turning clicked in and I WANT IT SO BAD. That heaviness, the feeling of molten glass and the colors and the sounds... I've really missed it. Glass glass glass. I cannot wait.

06 January, 2010

So, New Years came and went...

And I got a new co-host! That there is Conway, and he is great.

And Kenny stayed here at the Folk School with me for almost 2 weeks.

(That's us on New Years Eve, looking very 2009, I might add.)

And I took a week off from classes to clean my new room, read (!), and finally get around to doing those little things that pile up and make you feel like you're not doing a good job being a grown up (this week I finally sewed new buttons onto my winter coat, which had been hanging askew for weeks, new buttons still in my pocket). Also, before Kenny left, we managed to book our wedding venue and hire a wedding consultant (a friend who has been the "personal assistant" to many local brides, and really knows her stuff). So I feel like I'm not totally ignoring the impending date. 137 days to go, people!

Next week: GLASS BEADS! Finally. I've got an itch that only some Moretti glass and a Hot Head torch can scratch.

Hope the first week of 2010 has been good to you so far!

01 January, 2010

2010 Begins

I love planning ahead and I love lists, so I always feel a little secretly ashamed when people denounce New Years resolutions, because I LOVE THEM. I just looked through my blog archives to see what my Resolutions were for last year, or the year before, or possibly even the year before, and you know what's weird? I have never posted any. Seriously, look at my 1/1/07 entry from Cambodia: no lists, just descriptions of beautiful, beautiful Phu Quoc. Or my post on 1/2/08 (close enough), where I outline all the finished knits from the calendar year but there's not a single bullet point to be found. What's the deal? Surely I've blogged about New Years Resolutions before...? I guess not. Well here we go, then. I'll limit it to three, because that's the magic number, and easy to remember:

Things about which I am totally resolved:
(Or: 2010: These Things Will Happen)

1. I will reach my goal weight of 150 lbs before my wedding on 5/22/10. This means continuing to stay faithful to my calorie intake counting, moving my booty, and generally making choices that will feel good for hours, not just mouth moments. CAN Do! HALFWAY THERE! Enough already! 2010 is the Year of the 150 Pound Woman (or, you know, thereabouts.)

2. I will finish all the knit projects that I have currently in progress. I'm looking at you, Chevron Scarf, wedding shawl, purple Fair Isle cardigan, brown cabled cuffs sweater, and long pair of mittens (of which there is only actually one). Following through on projects that were once, at some point, so important and fun that I had to start them right away, and not being distracted by shiny new ones. Ravelry queue, you can just sit back and hold on for awhile. 2010 is the Year of the Finished Knits.

3. I will pay off at least half of my student debt. We know now that we'll be in Williamsburg for another school year, so I have that as my goal: by June 2011 I SHALL HAVE NO MORE DEBT. Boo yeah! I just decided that, right now! It shall be done. 2010 is the Year of Almost Being Finished with Paying Off Loans (that can be the working title for now.)

So there you have it. 2010: the Year of the 150 Pound Woman who Finishes Knits and Almost Pays off her Loans.

I like it. :)

I'm on Flickr a lot.

Jessica K.. Get yours at bighugelabs.com/flickr