Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's In a Sewing Room

So Toni asked yesterday what other people have in their sewing rooms, and her question was so apropos, so timely and succinct, that I can only assume she's reading my mind again, because it's certainly something I've been thinking about. See, I got my current beautiful new sewing room in the Great Construction of 2006, and was so giddy with delight (I can't think why else I volunteered) that my first project in it was making vast swathes of theatrical drape. (This was to replace a large quantity of ancient and venerable drape that was falling apart. It's owned by an organization that very often loans said drape at no charge to my music club for large events- so not purely altruistic on my part, but certainly a service to the community.)

However in the years since there has been less sewing, and the sewing room has become the repository of all sorts of Other Stuff, which for one reason or another has migrated there. And while we've devoted a fair amount of time and energy to organizing the library and the kitchen, the rest of the house has not gotten nearly the same level of attention. Over the last year-plus, I've been cleaning out, freecycling odds and ends, and generally herding stuff, so I'm getting to the point of wanting to do some major organizing and rearranging projects this year. But that's for later. Let's return to the sewing room and take the tour. Brace yourselves, it's not pretty.

What I've got:
1. The fabric draped over everything is the last batch of (mostly) quilting fabric that was given to me by my mother, who got it from my sister, who got it from a friend whose mother was destashing. (Got that? There's a test at the end of the post.) File this under temporary- it's in the process of being ironed, folded and sorted into storage bins in color families, the better to be quilted with.

2. The storage bins are another story- these I hope to store in the closet eventually- but that needs some work. See item 14.

3. Bookcase #1- this contains knitting and quilting books, arts and crafts and the Romance Ghetto. Knitting and quilting, arts and crafts belong here, romances could be moved (and will likely have to be as the bookcase is overflowing).

(By the way, the lovely little wall quilt is my mom's work, made from fabric she dyed herself.)

4. The folding table is one of two- I have a card table and a long table. I can't use them both at once, but it does give me some work surface flexibility depending on what's going on. Folding tables are stored in the closet when not in use.

5. The drafting table. I haven't historically used this a lot- but when I do, it's very useful. It wouldn't necessarily need to be in the sewing room, but it's not a bad place for it--it gets used mainly for sewing design. But it's both movable and can be tilted flat and stored easily, so that's not mandatory.

6. Two rolling chairs. The intent is to have one be at the desk and the other at the sewing machine. I need another hard-floor chair mat for the sewing machine, if I plan to carry that out. But it would be useful since then the ugly paint-spattered folding chairs could go back to the basement where they belong.
7. The desk. Okay, here's something that is of questionable use in the sewing room. It used to be in the bedroom, but I started moving stuff out of there that I might want to use at times when my husband is asleep. Since he's a night person who much prefers to rise at the crack of eleven or so on weekends, the bedroom isn't the best place for that. File this under, movable if I had any idea where else to put it.

8. Fax machine (out of sight behind the desk). This could go anywhere and probably should. It's supposed to be an all-in-one printer/copier/scanner/fax, but I've only ever used it for faxing.

9. Large storage bin (in front of window on left, you can see a bit of orange fabric on top of it). This currently holds most of the other fabric I own- all colors together, in a jumbled mess. I plan to sort the quilting fabric out into the storage bins by color, and then put all the non-quilting fabric (most of which is in larger quantities) into it. This could continue to sit under the window or go into the closet.

10.  Exercise bike- yeah. Not sewing or craft related at all. This was in the cellar, and got moved to make room for a planned expansion of the model train layout. On the downside, it takes up a lot of space. On the plus side, the sewing room is a lovely space and much more attractive to exercise in. It's also handy to have it next to the desk as I like to watch DVDs or streaming video while on the bike. (And having my laptop resident in the basement is definitely not convenient.)   Tentatively, this is staying, but I'm thinking about trying to rearrange the space so it isn't so much in the way.

11.  Ironing board- up most of the time, stored in closet when not needed. Must stay in the sewing room as practically all sewing requires it.

12. Sewing stand and three sewing machines- the sewing stand was a freecycle find- quite useful. It came with a sewing machine in it. Not so useful. I haven't even tried it to see if it works. I expect I'll be at the very least oiling it and cleaning it. Ideally, I'll get rid of one of the two lighter-weight machines, as three is not really necessary.

13. Sewing table- this little table usefully holds thread, buttons and notions. Certainly belongs in the sewing room. (The junk on top of it is another story.)

14. The giant closet- this is a 'needs improvement' item. It is designed to be double-depth, and is accessible both from the library side and the sewing room side. It currently has two sets of shelves and a crapload of boxes, bags and random stuff in it. The plan is to build a custom set of shelving that takes up perhaps 2/3 of the closet, with a walk-through area and the two existing shelves in the remaining area. With more shelving, this will easily take all the fabric and yarn storage. Timeline, however is TBD.

15.  Drying rack.  This has been in the sewing room forever, but the only good thing about it is that items to be ironed have a short trip from the rack to the ironing board.  As soon as the last lot of quilt fabric is dry, I think this will go down to the bedroom.  It will be one floor closer to the washing machine, much handier to fold and put away dry clothes, and the sound of drying clothes is unlikely to wake my husband in the morning.  (The sound of Biscuit knocking the rack over is a completely different issue.)

16. Bookcase #2- this is completely random- mostly YA fiction and totally misplaced. The bookcase is sized for paperbacks so many of the YA books don't fit in it. We've got a spare bookcase that got moved into my husband's office in the last library re-org (and is currently empty) and I'm thinking that YA should move there, at least for now. It's also paperback-sized, so not ideal, however. The other consideration is that there is a second bookcase that matches Bookcase #1-and I'd really like to get that bookcase back into the sewing room (it's currently in use elsewhere). That would give me more tall-book-space, and matching shelves in the sewing room. (But involves a lot of book-logistics involving what happens to the stuff currently on it.)  

17.  Large fluffy cat (lower right).  I'm darned if I know what he's for, but I apparently can do nothing in the sewing room without him.

Well. I'm not sure that this makes for entrancing reading, but it has certainly helped me to clarify some of my own thoughts on rearranging.  And perhaps Toni will get some consolation from seeing how much more organized her sewing room is than mine!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


And now I really am over the afghan:


It insisted on bedeviling me right to the end by running out of the dark green 8" before the end on the last round outside the border squares, but I just pulled it out, and redid the last round in half-double crochet instead of double-crochet; which used enough less yarn for me to finish.  Finished size is about 45" square, the pastels have been almost entirely wiped out of the mitten-and-hat stash, and I'm more than ready to move on to something else.  Just about anything else! 

The possibilities are--if not endless--certainly numerous.  But whatever I cast on next, it's definitely going to be smaller

Friday, February 24, 2012

Plan D* Is Now In Effect**

So, last week as I was finishing up the 22nd green afghan square, I was rather surprised to find myself thinking, I am so over this afghan.

"What?" I asked.

I'm so over this afghan, I repeated.  Done, kaput, finished.

"But you love crocheting afghan squares!"  I asserted.  "Whatever happened to 'these are so compulsive I can't put them down'?"

That was before I made two afghans in the last six months.

I changed tack.  "But we only have 22 squares!" I protested. "That's not nearly enough to finish."

So? I'm still not making another 80 squares. Find something else to do with them.

"Like, what, a placemat?!"


Clearly, a crafting rebellion was in progress.

I mustered all of my goal-oriented-ness and pressed onward. "It could be a small afghan. " I scribbled a few numbers and discovered that 22 six-inch squares doesn't really make even a small afghan. "We've got to have more than 22 squares," I asserted firmly.

My brain deployed the big guns. We're almost out of the white we're using for the border, I pointed out. Buying the dark green was one thing, any leftovers can go into hats and mittens, but buying more pastels to use up the pastels we have, which we got because we were trying to get rid of pastels but didn't have enough for afghan number one and got more than we needed which didn't fit into afghan number two- which wasn't even part of the original plan, let alone a third afghan- that's dumb.

I had to admit I was right.

I started looking at the remaining yarn I wanted to use up. One more skein of light green, a large skein of yellow. I got the glimmering of an idea. "How about using the yellow as a big central panel, and then bordering it with the white and remaining light green, then using the dark green to fill in the space and making the smaller squares a border?" I suggested.

Much better.

So that's how I came to make a large shell-patterned yellow square for the center-- since it ran out of yarn as a square, I grudgingly made two more of the small squares (because 24 squares makes for a square border). And I used all the light green and most of the white, and am currently getting the central panel up to the size of the border. It'll finish approximately crib size, and I'm even pleased with how it's coming out.
afghan central panel

But I'm still kind of worried by the whole rebellious thing.

*For those who have lost track of the plan mutations:
Plan A- make an afghan to use up existing pastels. Failed when I ran out of pastels before getting enough squares for an afghan.
Plan B- take additional pastels supplied by my mom, finish the first afghan, and use the remaining yarn to make a second. Failed when I found that many of the colors did not play nicely together. Finished second afghan without using up all pastels.
Plan C- started to crochet squares for the third afghan, this one mostly in shades of green. You just read how that went.
Plan D- the current plan, with small squares bordering the large central panel.

**And if you happen to be wondering if the title is deliberate, it is.  I've been rereading Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.  If you don't get the reference, don't worry about it- it's just a paraphrase of a book quote. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

House Concert on Monday Feb 20- An Awesome Double Bill!

Yes, it's another house concert in our commodious library. Next Monday Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps return to the Nashua area. The Vancouver Sun says Heather Dale's music is "powerful stuff, reminiscenet of Loreena McKennit and Sarah McLachlan but with a depth and resonance rooted in its mythic sources."

And for the first time we will have the pleasure of hosting S.J. Tucker with Betsey Willey.  "S.J. effortlessly channels the centuries' old archetype of the Bard, drawing on the magic of folklore from around the world and on the wisdome of stories ancient and modern to create fantastical new music."  -Joan Mage

If you're local to Nashua NH and want to have a great evening of song and company- along with homebaked refreshments- think about coming out to our house concert.  We have plenty of seats left. 

Monday, February 20, 2012
Door open at 7:30 PM
Concert at 8 PM
Recommended donation $8-$15
Reservations required, please email
or call 603-891-1339 for reservations and directions.

Please feel free to copy this announcement to any other lists or individuals you think would be interested.

Note that the concert space is on the second floor, access is via stairs. And there are two cats in residence, so free cat hair will be provided for all attendees.   Knitting or handcrafts are not mandatory, but strongly encouraged. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sew Finished

So, I've been dropping in hints about sewing for a few posts now, and finally I have an FO to show you. Now, admit it, in your wildest imagination, I bet you never thought I was sewing....a dapper frog! Photobucket

He came from a..I'm not sure whether to call it a kit or a was a length of fabric printed with all the pieces and also the assembly directions. It came in one of the boxes of free fabric, and as soon as I saw it, I knew who it was intended for. The only mod I made was to embroider buttons on the vest instead of using real buttons (the intended recipient is too young to be trusted with anything he can swallow yet). I'm rather pleased- it was a fussy little piece of sewing, but it came out well- and as a bonus, I finally used up most of the bag of poly-fill craft stuffing which I bought in (I think) 1982.

In other project news, I'm moving right along with the new sweater. When I realized I was going to have enough yarn left from my husband's sweater for another entire sweater, I decided there was no point in waiting. One of my goals this year is to empty all the bags containing sweater quantities of yarn that are lurking in the upstairs closet (that's not as much as it sounds- I've got enough for 2 more and a vest or possibly 3 sweaters after this one (that's adult sized) and one kid sweater quantity in the baby yarn bag.

So anyway, I decided that the white-and-gray yarn had such lovely stitch definition that I wanted to do more cables with it, but this time I went with a rather simpler design- it'll be a zipper-front cardigan, probably drop shoulder. We'll see how the yarn holds out- I'm reasonably sure I can get a complete sweater, but some of the finishing details are still up in the air. Here's the front of the sweater: Photobucket

And here's a closer look at the front detail. This was the bit I changed my mind about, ripped and redid. I realized after I'd gotten the first repeat of the back panel done the the best idea for the front was to extract the central motif (suitably modified to make it narrower), and use that instead of the (clearly inferior) design I'd started with. Photobucket

And here's the back panel. I've liked this from the first time I saw it in the stitch dictionary, so I'm delighted to be able to use it now. Photobucket

Last but not least, the green afghan has gotten a bit of attention. I picked up a skein of green yarn (it's a bit brighter than it looks in this photo) and have now done the last border round on all the squares I had already made. Now I'm starting to crochet more (and get the last of this batch of pestiferous pastels out of my stash!). Photobucket

In between making the rounds of my craft activities, today I've done laundry, walked, ridden the exercise bike, broke down a bunch of boxes in the cellar and put them in recycling, promptly used the space I'd freed up downstairs to glue and clamp a chair (which has been down there to be mended for a while) and built a nice fire in the woodstove. Coming up next, I'm going to do some reading, dishes and probably iron some of the fabric I washed earlier this week. Maybe start a new sewing project. It's not very often I get to enjoy a quiet weekend at home, I want to take advantage while I've got it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Note to Self

The time to design the sweater is before one starts knitting it. Changing the plan after one has already started knitting leads to cursing, dropping back panels of stitches 20 rows, and general discontent.