Category: Confession

The Big Reveal 2.0

I’m so ridiculously excited to finally be able to share the cover of my next book!

Fancy Felines: Boutique Style with "Cattitude," (October 2015, Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing)
Fancy Felines: Boutique Style with “Cattitude,” (October 2015, Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing)

Fancy Felines: Boutique Style with “Cattitude” will be out in October 2015. I’m just tickled that C&T Publishing again worked with me (it’ll be out on their Stash imprint), especially on such a niche title.

Cat lovers will embrace this book with its 58 clothing options tailored for their favorite companion. Everything has been graded and sized to fit a variety of feline figures, from sleek to “bigger boned.”

I can’t wait to reveal more in the coming months!

The Things We Love

I bought my primary sewing machine — a Janome HT2008 — at a sewing expo in March 2008. I’d been sewing on an inexpensive, no-frills Brother machine I’d purchased at a big discount store. The extent of my research into the HT2008 was scanning the reviews on PatternReview.com (thumbs up) and a quick Google search to see if the expo price was much of a bargain (it was).

Fast forward to 2015, where the research leading to the purchase of my new sewing machine took about three years.

IMG_6593
My new Juki TL2010-Q.

Why the difference?

I’m often asked for sewing machine recommendations because of my job. Teaching and working at a quilt shop, plus writing sewing books puts me in contact with a lot of people who want to sew or already sew. My discussion about what machine to buy nearly always starts with the question: “What do you want to sew?”

In 2008, I had an inkling that I wanted to write a book and I knew I wanted a sewing machine that would allow me to continue to make bags and clothes. What I did not realize at the time was that the type of sewing I do would change, as would the amount of time I spent sewing.

I came to realize I needed a sewing machine that could handle the volume of work that I do, but also had some key features that weren’t available on my little Janome. The two big features I really wanted were an auto thread cutter and more harp space.

The thread cutter is just one of those things that seems so trivial but playing around with the feature on my friends’ machines made me realize how useful it really could be, especially for someone who tends to forget to trim her threads. Ahem.

Harp space — the room from the right of the needle to the body of the sewing machine — really makes a big difference when you sew oversized things. While I do make the occasional quilt, I’m just as likely to sew a historical costume with yards and yards of fabric. Both of these types of project would benefit from a much larger harp than that of my HT2008.

Initially, I looked at machines — specifically Janome — that had all the features of my existing machine as well as the ones I decided were a priority. And I quickly found that the cost of those machines was really a bit more than I was certain I wanted to pay.

I absolutely believe in investing in the best tools for the job you do and this is no exception. But many of the machines I found were really more machine than I needed. I don’t need a built-in alphabet: I have an embroidery machine. I don’t need 1,000 stitch varieties: I need the three I regularly use (straight, zig-zag, buttonhole).

The more I researched, the more information I found that led me to a simple conclusion: I needed two machines.

That might sound a little crazy but there’s a method to my madness. In a commercial clothing manufacturing facility, each piece of equipment does exactly one thing. My late mother worked for the Arrow shirt company as a band creaser. Her job was to crease the neck band of men’s shirts. That’s all she did and that’s all her equipment did. I have already applied this philosophy to other tools in my sewing room: I have a serger and a separate coverstitch, rather than a combo machine, plus an embroidery-only machine, as well.

And thus the decision was made to invest in a straight-stitch only machine with a separate garment-sewing machine for my other needs. I quickly narrowed down my search to two machines: the Janome 1600P-QC and the Juki TL2010-Q. Reviews led me to realize that either would work well for what I needed, so it really just came down to price.

That’s how I found myself sitting in front of a 2010 at the most recent sewing expo, putting it through its paces with a stack of fabric samples I’d brought from home. Soft n Stable sandwiched between fabric.Timtex sandwiched between fabric. Red satin coutil. I chatted with Karen Pharr, Juki’s sewing educator (really, Juki ambassador) about what I do and what I was looking for.

I came, I sewed, I bought.

It might be a love connection.

The Heirloom Myth

There are many things I love about working in a quilt shop. Talking to people about what they’re making is right up there near the top. It’s not unusual to hear people downplay their projects. “It’s just a quilt.” “It’s nothing special.” “I’m just a beginner.”

One of our regulars was telling me recently that she makes quilts for the high school graduates she knows but that the ones she made weren’t anything special because she’s still new to quilting. And it dawned on me that she really, honestly thought the quilts she was making weren’t anything remarkable — which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you take the time and love to make someone a handmade gift — especially something like a quilt — you are giving them something they will treasure for years, I told her. You may look at it and see all the mistakes you made but the recipient sees you and feels loved. If you gave that same person a comforter from Target, that blanket will go in the trash when it’s no longer worth using. But that person will seek out someone to repair the worn spots, the damage from years of loving use, of that beautiful handmade gift you think of as “nothing special.”

Whether or not we intend it, our quilts, clothes, stuffed toys — they’re all special for the love and thoughts that go into making them. If that doesn’t make it an heirloom, then I don’t know what does.

Dinner Confessions

An open letter to my family:

I’d like to apologize for the meal I’ve prepared for tonight’s dinner. Out of the approximately 500 meals I cook and serve in any given year, it’s to be expected that a few will be not so awesome. Tonight is one of those meals.

In my haste to prepare the meatloaf I’d planned for tonight, I neglected to add any seasonings whatsoever to the ground beef. I did remember to put it in the meatloaf pan and pop it in the oven for about an hour. What you’ll find in the kitchen looks very little like the meatloaf you’ve come to expect from me and a great deal more like “old brown shoe.” Looks aren’t everything, folks, so I’d suggest you refrain from making comments about its appearance — unless you are planning to volunteer to make dinner for the next three weeks.

Please trust me when I say it is entirely edible and safe to consume. In fact, you could consider it a blank canvas, just waiting for the condiment of your choice to lend it flavor. Seriously, go grab some kind of condiment out of the fridge and pour it on because you’re getting overcooked, plain ground beef for dinner. At least the mashed potatoes have garlic in them (I bought them that way).

xoxo,
me

Top Ten Reasons to Write Another Book

10. My husband has completely forgotten how unavailable I was while writing my previous book.

9. Daughter’s nine hours of gymnastics each week equals prime writing time.

8. I finally cleaned my sewing room. Why should it stay that way?

7. The rest of my house needs to be cleaned.

6. My 30th high school reunion is creeping up and I need something to talk about.

5. Sleep is overrated.

4. Nothing motivates me quite like a deadline.

3. So. Many. Ideas!

2. Writing a book should make a dent in all this fabric, thus keeping me off Hoarders just a little bit longer.

And the No. 1 reason to write another book…

Stash Books/C&T Publishing accepted my proposal! Coming Fall 2015!

photo (11)

(More details to come next year, like the title. And the subject. But yay! Another book!)

 

It’s Progress

I’ve had to take a close look at my costume plans for this year’s Dragoncon and do some scaling back. I’ve got a massive deadline that basically coincides with the convention (yay!) but it means the majority of my non-work time this summer will be spent working instead on that project.

getting started

On the upside, it’s forcing me to not procrastinate when it comes to the two costumes I decided to make. I’m already in the thick of it with the most labor-intensive of the two I’m planning to make: the neo-Victorian Snow Queen. I’m using my existing Truly Victorian corset (which I need to rebind) and bustle underneath and revisiting the TV Vested Basque and Trained Skirt Ensembles for remainder. These are the same patterns I used for last year’s Night Circus costume, which makes things a bit easier on me: no drafting or working with new patterns. I am making a couple of modifications, mostly to the skirt, to accommodate trim and also to make sure I actually have a skirt that’s long enough to wear with shoes. Unlike the Night Circus costume…

Of course I have to amp up the difficulty level a bit and am making a Victorian riding hat from a pattern by Lynn McMasters. I’ve had the supplies and pattern for years but just couldn’t get started. It’s amazing what a little incentive and vision can do to get you moving!

hat in progress

Did I mention how much of this hat involves handsewing?

I more or less raided my stash for the fabrics I’m using for this project. I picked up a nice chunk of aqua no-wale (featherwale) corduroy at JA five or six years ago. It’s a lovely, lightweight but plush cotton cord that looks a bit like velveteen. I did not have enough fabric for the skirt in my stash (it’s about 5 yards) so grabbed some stretch sateen in white at JA (surprise!). I know a lot of costumers look down on fabric from the chain but I’m on a budget and wanted to be able to get more easily if something messed up.

For the vest part of the basque, I grabbed some of the Timeless Treasures Pearle in white. It’s got a bit of a frosty look to it, which I think will be a great detail to play against the aqua.

The finishing touch for the outfit will be the white faux fur I’m using for trim on the hem of the skirt and the cuff and collars of the jacket. Yes, this is for a convention on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta where the average daily temperature hovers around 90 degrees. Yes, I am going to sweat to death. Yes, I am crazy.

skirt progress

I was inspired by another Victorian gown (OK, actually several) I ran across on Pinterest and decided to embroider snowflakes on both the skirt and jacket. There are a dozen on the center front panel of the skirt and another 20 arcing up on the rear train of the skirt. I chose two colors for the skirt snowflakes — aqua and silver — which I thought would play nicely against the white. Because it is a HUGE expanse of white. I could host a circus under that skirt! And since I can’t do anything the easy way…I’m hand beading to accentuate each snowflake. All 32.

beading

Stillness

It’s 7:40 p.m. on a Monday and I’m alone in my house except for the animals.

This morning, my father took us out to brunch and then drove off with my tiny sunshine. Spring break is this week and my folks invited her to visit them in South Carolina since they missed out on hosting her last summer.

I am accustomed to being home alone during the day, while she is at school. But from the time my “Miss L alarm” goes off on my phone at 3 p.m., my afternoons are filled with chattering and homework and cuddles missed since the bus pulled away at 7:35 a.m.

Grandparents were not a part of my growing up years so it’s always been important to me that the kids have these trips and stays. But even after 21 years’ worth, I still find that my arms and ears are a little empty while they are gone.

Confessions

Each week I receive an email from Ali Edwards as part of the 52 Creative Lifts subscription. Yesterday’s email hit my inbox and it was like one of those Oprah “Ah ha!” moments:

{It’s a fabulous email and I highly recommend reading it. You can forward a copy of it to your email here.}

I’ve struggled the past year with comparing myself to others. OK, this post is titled “Confessions” so it’s more accurate to say that I’ve struggled with this my entire life. I’m not smart enough/funny enough/talented enough/insert whatever here.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, then you’ve surely noticed a substantial decline in posting. While I’d like to say it’s because the blog is not in charge of my life it’s really more a matter of not feeling like I have anything to offer that measures up to whatever Everyone Else is doing. The Internet has gone from being a source of inspiration for me to one of constantly comparing myself — and feeling lacking.

But here’s the thing about comparing yourself to other people: You can’t value  your worth on someone else’s accomplishments. I have let so many opportunities slip through my fingers because I have not felt worthy or haven’t put forth the effort or just taken the chance. OK, that’s not 10o percent true, either. I have taken some chances and been rejected — and let that feed the fire of “you’re not worthy.”

It’s kind of a sucky cycle, you see.

So I’m giving myself a kick in the ass. I’m not going to measure myself against other people. I’m going to take a break from the social networking black hole which seems to suck me in and trap me in some unhealthy behavior. And I’m going to take charge of my life and really devote my energy to doing the things I love (crafting, teaching, writing) and see if I can’t make some of MY goals come to life. I’ll be blogging about what I’m doing and making again because I’ve missed it.

This is my life. It’s not perfect but it’s mine and I’m not wasting it.