Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I've been writing this post in my head for a week. My friend didn't make it home. We weren't ever particularly close, but we knew each other for a long time. The last time I saw her was a couple of years ago-- she was hunting the socks off of an ex-racehorse, galloping away in front of me.

I think what has made my heart heaviest about this terrible event (besides of course the facts and the violence) is that this was a girl who lived her life to the fullest, cheerfully true to herself always. Her positive attitude and peace with herself drew others to her.

The last few mornings, I've woken early, before the baby, to the sound of birds. Lots of them. Talking to each other, greeting the new day. And then the baby chirps from the next room and I rise and we start all over again.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I'm hoping and praying today for an old friend's safe return to her family. Yesterday on the Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor read this poem, written by Jack Gilbert. Hoping is hard.

Horses At Midnight Without A Moon

by Jack Gilbert

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

"Horses At Midnight Without A Moon" by Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2005

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer uniform

I love these little playsuits. Such a classic look on a little child. These are from the Oliver + S tea party playsuit pattern. I skipped the contrasting piping because I think it makes them look more classic, but I did manage to get the snap tape into the crotch of the seersucker version! These are the three to six month size-- they'll be outgrown in another month.

H has worn these almost constantly, though, with a long-sleeved onesie and booties on cooler days and solo on days like yesterday, which was hot and humid. They're nice and washable, and don't require ironing since they're so small. The twill pony-print one was a lot easier to make than the seersucker; it was easier to line that curved bodice seam up with the stiffer hand of the twill. These taught me that I need to work a little on my buttonholes. Even with the "automatic" feature on the machine, it's easy to make them too big. I need to learn how to make bound buttonholes-- I think they'd make these that much nicer. (Also, from Mom, useful information on how big to make the buttonholes. Apparently the rule is to add the diameter of the button to its thickness to determine the size for the hole. Good information to know.)

I already have fabric picked out for a couple more of these in the next size up. Maybe gnomes and baby wale corduroy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sewing Machine meme

Do you know how hard it is to take a photo of a sewing machine in a dark basement on a rainy day? Pretty hard-- here's the best I could do. Sew Mama Sew is hosting sewing machine month for June, so today I'm answering their sewing machine meme. All questions are from the Sew Mama Sew site.

What brand and model do you have? My machine is a Bernina Virtuosa 153 Quilter's Edition.

How long have you had it? I (with much help from my mother) purchased the machine in late 2001 or early 2002, secondhand from a Bernina dealer.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? Bernina doesn't make this machine anymore, but it ran about $2700 new. I paid about $1750, if I remember correctly, for an almost brand new machine. The woman who bought it new had turned it in for an even spiffier model soon after she purchased it. I've seen this model on eBay for $1200 - $1300 recently.

What types of things do you sew? I have sewn almost everything with this machine. I think the strength and sturdiness of a Bernina its greatest asset. I've done quilts from start to finish (piecing, quilting), clothes for me and my family, handbags, slipcover projects, a fair group of fake fur and fleece items for the horse and his equipment, paper for greeting cards and paper piecing, and much more. This machine has even sewed double-thickness split cowhide to heavy-duty Carhartt insulated coveralls (not that it was a walk in the park, but the machine came out unscathed). Basically, if you have the right needle and the right foot, with this machine the sky's the limit.

How much do you sew? I sew whenever I can, up to two hours a day after the baby goes to bed, but I've been known to sew a weekend away with two twelve-hour stretches.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? No name, but I really do love this machine. It's quality.

What features does your machine have that work well for you? I like the automatic buttonhole feature. The blind hem stitch is very handy when time is tight. The adjustable feed dogs and the stop-needle-down feature see a lot of use. The bobbin is incredibly easy to wind and replace. The computer screen is not complicated. It simply displays the choices I've made with the buttons on the machine's face.

Would you recommend this machine to others? Absolutely. Without hesitation. It's such a strong and versatile machine that I don't see myself needing another.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? I learned to quilt in college on a vintage Singer Featherweight that belongs to my mother. It did everything I needed then; it sewed beautiful rows of straight stitching. I made quilt blocks and stayed up late making dresses for beach week.

When I first got the Bernina, it was probably more than I needed. More functions and buttons for someone who really only knew how to sew in straight lines of straight stitches. But now I use almost all the features, and I can really do whatever I want to do with it. I think it's important to look for a quality machine above all else. Look for something that doesn't intimidate you but that does a little more than you think you'll need. I've grown as a sewist because of my machine.

Do you have a dream machine? Have you seen this new Bernina 830 that supposedly costs $12000? I haven't seen it in person, but I've ogled it on the computer more than once. Although I'm definitely not into the machine embroidery stuff, I'm a loyal Bernina user now, and this machine seems to be the only one with extended neck space. That's the one thing that I wish my machine had: a longer neck so that I could quilt larger, bed-sized pieces with ease on my home machine. There's a fair amount of wrangling to quilt a twin size piece now. Oh, and it'd be way cool to have the automatic scissors to cut the threads at the end of a seam. And a bigger bobbin. But I can't see spending twelve grand on a sewing machine!

I look forward to reading about other peoples' machines this month.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Just in time for summer

I've finished crocheting an enormous heavy woolen granny square for the sofa. Just when the sun has decided to ratchet those temps up to the high eighties every day. Typical. Just ask my husband how many Christmas and birthday gifts were given to him half-finished. Embarrassing, really.

I love this afghan, though. It's mostly Lamb's Pride Worsted, and is almost all scraps. I did have to buy a couple of skeins more in the dark brown color that anchors and borders the blanket, but I'll use the scraps someday, some more knitted toys, perhaps? I used a G hook, and the finished size is about 58" square. I was going for 60" square, so pretty close, right? I just couldn't make myself crochet one more round.

I got the idea and the pattern from the Purl Bee.