Monday, September 5, 2016

The Right Tool for the Job

Years ago I used to sew about ninety percent of my clothes but then I realised that even though I was generally saving money and getting clothes I wanted that I couldn't really find and that fitted me well, there was only so much free time and I'd rather spend it doing something I really enjoyed, like knitting or spinning, so I cut down a bit.

As one does.

The past decade or so I have made about half a dozen garments a year, plus home sewing: cushion covers, roman shades, that sort of thing. Practical stuff. Simple stuff.

Like recovering an ottoman. I've found that I like to sew the rectangular cover to fit the foam cushion, and then when I staple the fabric to the underneath it's both easier and neater. My staple gun stopped working when I was almost done yesterday and when I went to buy a new one I discovered that the heavy duty one I'd been using was overkill so I replaced it with a light duty staple gun with the added benefit of being easier on my hands.

Tools. Gotta love 'em, especially when they're right.

Long weekends are good (for me) for tackling odious things which I put off feeling that they'll take forever when in fact they're actually not that bad. Like culling the fabric stash of cuts I now hate, significantly-sized scraps which I've learned pill horribly, that sort of thing. I have a large bag at the foot of the stairs, awaiting a decision as to when I'll drop it off at Goodwill (these are big cuts. Surely someone will pounce on them? I know I would). 

So there's this skirt that Pinterest (I know, I know!) told me about known as the Tablecloth skirt. Looked like fun, wondered if it would work, found a length of fabric in the stash that wasn't quite big enough so I dug through the Goodwill pile and found something coordinating for a dress using the Tablecloth skirt idea just to see if it would work. 

I think it will and I think I'll even wear it tomorrow and I know it'll be perfect when we go to Hawaii in a couple of months.

Back when I used to sew I splurged on some odd tools and my sewing machine came with a couple of (you'd think) slightly esoteric feet that I barely use but man! When you want a rolled hem because you have about twelve feet that would be super-irksome to have to eyeball (who measures?) and pin and then sew, the rolled hem foot is magic!
 And the bias tape maker I bought in four sizes isn't too shabby either.
The fabric scraps from this dress are literally enough to make one patch pocket, no ways was I getting a neck facing from this but because of the way I cut the skirt of the dress, I was able to spare a couple of two-and-a-half-inch-wide strips on the diagonal.

Pretty nifty.

So even though I'm attempting to cull and reduce all over the place, apparently I'm not immune to acquiring ridiculous things.

The company for which I work makes radiation oncology software and I guess they have in the past shipped and reshipped stuff to various client sites for demos and whatnot and my office is also in a massive junk-reduction drive so they decided to get rid of the cases which they used to ship their equipment and I had a Thought and brought one home with me.
 First of all it's a hideous shade of blue and I'm a little afraid that any paint I choose will peel right off that ghastly blue plastic so I'm gong to be very careful about primer, not to mention the adhesive residue from the scads of stickers all over it.

The metal is rather banged up so I'm going to try to give it a brushed finish. I need to figure out what tool I'll use because I'll tell you right now it won't be steel wool and arm power.

So, my plan: clean it and paint it and clean out and line the inside (it's filled with custom-moulded foam) and attach metal industrial-looking wheels (already acquired) to the bottom and it'll be The Coolest Rolling Storage Coffee Table Ever.

Eventually.

And on this day twenty-four years ago I successfully made one of these with all natural ingredients and no tools - wait, there was a tool that I have since discarded...
I cannot believe that all 6'3" of that used to fit inside me. He's pretty awesome.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Three Weeks??

Yeah, it's been that long.

I've been making stuff (there's always a deadline).
 Turns out what of what I've been making has been remakes of things I've already made.  I made the above in red before, all one shade and using Czech seeds instead of Japanese. I like the delicacy of the Czech beads better, but I think the colour gradient makes it much more interesting.

The necklace below was supposed to have a crystal pendant in the centre, and it did but I had to cut it away as the seed beads scratched the finish off it and it looked quite bad, not to mention being a waste of a perfectly nice and not inexpensive focal which I'll probably now dip in etching fluid so that at least it's usable.
 Next time I'll use something that is coloured in the crystal and doesn't have any sort of coating.

The necklace below was originally made as a pair of earrings using a rather uninteresting colour combination so it was pretty but blah. I like how striking the murky main colour with the shiny accent is in this version.
 I had all sorts of plans for this square motif and I'm not sure I adore the arrangement I came up with although it's OK I suppose. I think perhaps I should have foregone the drapy stuff and connected the side pieces much closer to form a vee.
Oh well: shoulda-woulda-coulda.

I'm not entirely sure what else I've been doing the last three weeks because this looks pretty meagre all laid out here.

I'm pretty sure there have been incidents with water causing trouble because I did some serious outdoor caulking and have had all manner of water-related service calls to my house.

I did cook something pretty and delicious and I confess to be sightly obsessed with making these spicy little baked salmon wonton rangoon thingies:
Served over arugula, shaved fennel and lightly pickled cucumbers with a drizzle malt and balsamic vinaigrette, they went over really well at last night's dinner.

My biggest accomplishment since last I posted (though it happened twenty-six years ago):
Happy birthday!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Optimism

On the plus side, my basement is as finished as it's going to get, but on the other hand it's poorly done. I'm obviously weak and spineless, because I was so desperate to have my studio back that I gave up on all but the most egregious lapses in quality because it's been almost three months and I basically couldn't stand it any more. 

Hey Contractors! Do a really crappy job extremely slowly and even when you redo your terrible work, make sure it takes forever to do it almost as badly again and eventually the poor homeowner will just say ok, what the hell, it's fine.

Yeah, kinda sad.

I'm all moved in and mostly (re)organised with some new shelves and containers and the like so that makes me happy.

Right now I'm gazing at the staircase where he chipped off about a dozen spots of paint getting the old carpet off. Par for the course that he either didn't notice or didn't care but more to the point didn't fix it. Guess I have some painting in my future but I have to keep reminding myself that I do have my space back again.

Remember that pendant from last week? I reworked it a bit and now I'm much happier with it, though  it's a bit of a challenge to stitch as it depends extremely on the type (the size and proportion to be exact) of the beads used. I had to cut up the one I started with Toho Permanent Finish beads as they were utterly unworkable.
 Then that other thing that I said was an earring? See?
 I made its mate and added ear wires so you can see I wasn't out of my mind. John thinks it would be very nice as the centre of a crocheted doily and he may well be right but (a) I prefer not to crochet and (b) no way no how will I ever crochet a doily.

When I teach at my local bead shop I'm obliged to use only materials which they carry, which is fair enough as classes are essentially a mechanism to get people to buy beads, right? But I thought I could do better if I used more rivoli sizes in a design I'm teaching sometime between October and January, so I found rivolis in 12mm, 14mm and 18mm and yes, I'm pleased to say that it's much better this way.
At least I think so.

In the Did She Lose Her Mind department, I have to tell you that I just made marshmallow fluff using honey instead of corn syrup and I'm here to report that it's pretty delicious although obviously overwhelmingly sweet. I had these leftover egg whites you see and I'm making a cake to take to work tomorrow and the poor birthday boy can't eat dairy so I thought a S'Mores cake (see Depression Cake or Whacky Cake for a dairy-free and coincidentally egg-free cake which is actually rather good) would be fun.

I made a chocolate ganache with bittersweet chocolate and coconut cream, I have the honey fluff which I'll pop under the broiler tomorrow, and I'm debating whether I feel like crushing some graham crackers and toasting them to sprinkle over the top. (I'm tending towards "not really").

I think it'll be just fine as is.

Let me share the saga of my lemon of a fridge.

The old one was a year younger than my daughter (in its early twenties) when it started leaking towards the end of last year, so I bought a new one which started leaking the minute I tried to use the ice maker. Blah blah blah FIVE SERVICE VISITS LATER it's still leaking, albeit from a different place (not from inside the freezer) and I wish I could get my money back and buy another brand as this Whirlpool is a disaster and the warrantee expires in November and at this point I'm not even slightly confident that it'll be fixed by then because so far, each service technician has decided that the problem is something else entirely than what the previous technician thought and so far, none has been completely right although in all fairness the last one did fix the original leak in which the back and floor of the freezer would fill with ice that would slowly melt and puddle on my newish kitchen floor, but has left me with a new leak and if I sound a bit incoherent you must agree that there's a good reason for that.

I'm hoping this week is better.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Before Breakfast

But definitely after coffee.
Earrings.

I love the way the triangle beads make a cube look like a starry thing. They're self-stellating cubes.

Friday, July 22, 2016

On the Verge

My basement, that is: on the verge of being finished.

I honestly don't get why I have to explain that the threshold should be securely attached to the floor because if it is not, someone will trip and fall, not to mention the cat hair and yarn it will trap.

I also don't understand why I have to explain that a closet door should slide freely and not drag at the carpet that has just been laid, shortening its life at least by an order of magnitude.

Why is this stuff so hard?

Why is it not obvious?

On the plus side, it's most definitely useable now. I can start to move my beading studio back down away from my dining room although I must say, it's been kinda nice being able to bead upstairs in the daylight.

And I have been - beading that is.

The next deadline is Sunday when class proposals are due at the local bead store. In the ten or so years I've been teaching there, I've never raised what I get paid for each class, but this time there's a bit of a jump because they're suddenly taking a fifty percent bigger cut. I'm not super happy for that but I'm not giving myself a pay-cut and I hope it doesn't scare people away.
I'm always scribbling sketches with cryptic notes that I can't read and don't understand but much of the time I just start beading and it takes on a life of its own and turns into something.

I had an idea for a project that I could see in my mind's eye, and while noodling around with beads and coming up with other designs (this lacy one below is actually an earring prototype - sans ear wire - that I might actually work into a necklace focal. If I have time) it's like an itch I keep scratching with no relief.
 I re-sketch and rewrite and then I have to take a break to work on instructions for a beading class and when I go to bed at night I can see what I want and I fall asleep trying to figure out how I'm going to make it happen.
 I spend a lot of time stitching beads that are so badly wrong, and then cutting them apart and trying again.
 I'd been thinking of a seal, the kind you use with sealing wax. Not a ring, but a stamp hanging from a chain - I think I've been thinking of something that was on my mother's charm bracelet, a charm with a frame holding large stone bead that could swivel so that the carved face could be downward to make an impression on hot wax.

 It's not that I care about the carving, I just like the idea of a pendant flaring out to keep the star of the show (the shiny, sparkly rivoli) on the underside, only hinted at.

I'm kinda-sorta there. Almost.

But I'm also almost out of time.

Monday, July 4, 2016

And Then There Were Deadlines

I'm really just waiting for a time when there are no deadlines and no drama.

My basement still isn't done and it's in part my fault for being in a hurry and not taking the time and doing research to find a better contractor because the one that's doing the work either has no standards, is completely blind, totally lazy or just doesn't have any pride whatsoever in his work. He's a really nice guy though, and is perfectly agreeable every time I complain about his shoddy work (I don't actually use those words).

So as part of the sewage mitigation they cut away the bottom two feet or so of affected/wet drywall and the contractor had to replace it by cutting more drywall to fit and then nailing it to the existing studs and mudding and sanding and painting. I can't figure out why he thought it was perfectly OK to have a wall which isn't even slightly smooth - it had a huge berm-like bump all the way down the hallway.  He redid it twice before it was more or less (mostly less) good enough.

Then there's the carpet.  I think he was super-cheap and through he'd calculate it EXACTLY except (as I know because I sew and the usable width of fabric is almost never exactly fifty-four or forty-five or sixty inches so you ALWAYS NEED MORE YES I'M SHOUTING) he was short about half an inch in both directions, so the joins were (actually, still are) hideously visible and have a gap wide enough to comfortably cradle a pencil. 

We're waiting another two weeks for more carpet and meanwhile he's on vacation or something because he shows up in the morning but when I come home from work he's gone and nothing seems to have changed. I live in fear that he'll just disappear.

The basement area affected is two smallish rooms and a rather large area which is my studio, so most of my beads are in my dining room and living room, my workbench is piled high with containers of fiber stuff which was moved out of the way - it's been this disaster for two months now. With one week for the mitigation (and the bill is another nightmare that luckily my insurance agent is fighting) the restoration was supposed to take. Two. Weeks. TWO WEEKS.

Meanwhile, deadlines wait for no contractor so I'm working on class samples for October through January and I've made some progress.

Unfortunately the doodad from last time really didn't work as a slider because it wouldn't square up properly and started getting annoying, so it's only going to be a pendant (or earrings).
Moving right along, I started noodling about with a rivoli with a triangle in mind and instead, I had three rivolis which turned into this:
I'm not unhappy with it but I really wish that Lady Bug Beads still had 18mm rivolis because that size scales up nicely and the difference in sizes would be even prettier in the necklace than three the same size.
 This pendant really didn't photograph well but I'm kinda excited about it even though I'm not really a weaver.
This is about as close as I'll ever get to combining fiber and beads - and it's not really fiber, but a fiber technique. An extremely simple realisation of a fiber technique. There are four strips of "fabric" woven inside a frame, and each strip is wide enough to incorporate some sort of patterning or more interesting colour than shown here.

I like this because the beading techniques are pretty straightforward (as long as you can do peyote stitch and cubic right angle weave) but leave a lot of room for playing with colour and pattern.

Last weekend I went to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (check out the link. Do yourself a favour) in Bentonville, Arkansas. My first time in Arkansas but I suspect Bentonville is not typical. But the museum is fantastic, well worth the five-hour drive. 

The architecture of the building and its setting are absolutely stunning, and the grounds are filled with more art and lovely walking trails. Even the museum restaurant is supposed to be pretty good: I had a lavender-peach smoothie which, um, yeah. Really good.

And there's a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house which I would happily live in if it were more conveniently situated and had a basement. It's exactly the sort of downsizing I've been dreaming of.

The museum is a Walton family thing, and is supported by Walmart so that it is altogether free which is rather lovely if confusing to me because Walmart. We saw wedding preparations in progress and agreed that it must be a perfect setting for a wedding or other function.

The town itself is the closest thing to Main Street Disneyland that I've ever seen in the wild. Everything is spotless and neat and clean and in good repair or in the process of restoration and it's charming and pretty and Stepford as all hell but we did find a pair of killer cocktails and a delicious meal so it isn't entirely awful but I have to say that the Walmart grocery stores that looked just like Whole Foods creeped me out a bit. Why does every other Walmart have to be a soul-sucking confluence of everything that is sad and awful when Bentonville gets the Whole Foods treatment?

I'm off to watch a movie while the rest of the country watches fireworks.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Progression

Some years ago I made a pendant with matching earrings, scaling them down by using smaller fire-polished beads and omitting the rivoli which was in the pendant. I sort of like it but I think it could stand improvement so that's where I started.

I used the smaller fire-polished beads to weave a square frame, embellished it and inserted a smallish rivoli. Different embellishment than the last time and I was enjoying the making so I kept adding sides until I had a large, square slider.
 The sides measure about an inch and three quarters I think. It's pretty big.

Also? I don't like the embellishment so much. Too disorganised looking; not enough structure, just a mess of shiny magatamas, so I decided to revert to something closer to the original and make only one face before deciding whether I like it or not.
 Too dull. I hate those orange circles with holes and while I like some of the changes, it's too plain.  Not enough magatamas.

Third time though? Better. Just enough magatamas.
Good enough to make into a necklace for a friend's birthday in just over a week. (She doesn't read this blog so my secret is safe I think).

Also goo enough to start on another big slider. Or pendant. I'll decide later.