Monday, August 19, 2013

Musings On the Act of Being Busy

I Want To Lazy!

I Want To Lazy! by darkly-danie featuring a black sweater

Sometimes, the hardest thing in the world is to motivate. This morning I realized that it had been many days since TF had a post. I sat and I reflected on what the problem was and I realized I have just been too darn busy to even think about my sewing room! 

It is often hard to admit that life can get us. It can get in the way, it can wear us down, and sometimes we get a case of the blergs. The problem with being a blogger and the internet is we have constant pressure to be awesome coming at us 24/7. However, no one can handle the strain of being busy and productive all the time! That's nuts. Often times we need to take a step back and just let ourselves decompress. Granted often times, for me, that is in my sewing room- yet in this past week I just couldn't spare the brainpower to start a new project.

Vacation wore me out (let's face it they usually do) and the minute I got home it was back to the realities of life. I had a licensing test to study for and take, a new job (complete with interview) on the horizon, the husband and I bought me a new car (and that has had its ups and downs), we have immediate family members getting married which means lots of family social events, I have a new class for Phleb certification which starts next week, and after all this I am burned out. 

Yet, this is not a post to whine about being busy. Being busy is a glorious thing. It means we are living life to the fullest. This is a post about not letting yourself be overwhelmed or feel pressured to take on more than you can handle. I could not even think of my blog this week and to be honest at one point I got a little upset. Like how can something important to you fall by the wayside? Because I am a human being with a life! And that is ok! ]

The last two days I will be honest with you- I vegged! My husband and I had beta access to the new Final Fantasy XIV release (did I mention we are GIANT GEEKS!) and I spent the last two days sitting in bed leveling my character to 13. Sadly in the world of go go go we are often made to feel like if we sit in bed two days playing video games we are slackers or useless. Yet, I attest that sane humans beings need brain breaks and there is nothing wrong with that!

I do want to take a minute and share a photo of my gorgeous new car with you. Its a 2013 Mini Cooper and it is my dream car. I am giant anglophile and as many have pointed out this is the "most me" car I have ever owned down to the Union flag mirror covers. I am very proud and happy to own it. It really is my first grown up car with a grown up price tag and I love it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Quilts of the MidWest: Missouri

Hello my loves! I have returned! After a week among the trees and waters of the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri the husband and I are home safe and sound in one piece. It has been quite the adventures and I have a feeling that I will be breaking up the trip into a series of posts instead of trying to do an image and info dump in one post.

Today's post will focus on the most important aspect of traveling: seeing new and beautiful quilts!!! I was actually shocked how many quilts crossed my path while staying in my husbands grandparents lake house. It was like they kept coming out of the woodwork sending me running for my camera to document the beauty of these beautiful and mostly hand quilted (!) quilts providing warmth to the rainy Missouri days (and there were many!).

The first quilt we ran into hid beneath the covers of the bed the husband and I were borrowing for the trip. In the bedroom of his grandparents close friends who generously lent us the use of their lake house, I shrieked with joy when I pulled back the covers to these adorable applique kitties and about gave my husband a heart attack. But, come on! Applique kitties! It was like this quilt was meant for me or something! It was pretty obvious this quilt was machine quilted but I coveted the hand embroidery around each kitty cat.

The next room over I stumbled across this amazing hexy quilt. I loved the color choices and the playful patterns

This postage stamp quilt was found in a closet while searching for towels. Let's face it though, it is much too pretty for a closet. 

As we were driving from the airport towards the lake house and I watched the shops, trees, and white lines out the window and I noticed a sign reading Love To Sew. I logged its position in my head in case I ever got the chance to explore the town on my own. That time came when the husband and I decided to while away an afternoon shopping and I forced my husband to pull over into the parking lot. Because, if you can't hit every quilt shop in the world you aren't trying hard enough!

The shop was adorable from the get go and I could tell the lovely woman at the counter was surprised to see young people enter through the door as it was pretty clear straight away that at the Lake of the Ozarks people our age were more interested in boating and beers than piecing and quilting. The shop only sold Janome machines like the MC 9900 in the picture below which was thrilling to me as I have been seriously considering a Janome but had yet to see one up close and personal and boy howdy get I get up close. However, my husband got more up close to the price tag! Yike! Now, it will be the uphill battle to convince him that this machine would be worth the price and make all my quilting dreams come true lol. Until then this ladies in the shop were kind enough to answer all our questions and allow us to check out the work all the customers had been doing on their Horizon's in the backroom. The shop offers free classes to all who buy machines in which to teach you how to use the bazillion features. That day they were working with the built in AcuFill quilting feature and boy was I green with envy.

The fabric selection in the shop was lovely, not the best selection for a modern quilter, but an absolute heyday for a traditional quilter. Their batik selection especially was mindblowing and I loved the mini quilts hung around the shop, I could have spent all day ogling!

Eventually though the husband managed to drag me out and on with our day. But I will tell you I will be saving every penny I find in hopes that someday in the not too future I will be splurging for a new machine. Until then my trusty Brother and I will continue happily quilting and I will continue to scream at my husband to stop the car every time I see the words sew and quilt- no matter how much we are enjoying our vacation!

For more pictures and information about Love to Sew Boutique please visit their website here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

It's Worth What?

Today while catching up on my blog reads I ran across a post from Hunter's Design Studio that really caught my eye. Entitled What's It Worth, Sam Hunter shares how she determines the prices of her wares. The article is a brilliant breakdown on why handmade products are expensive but worth it.

It is often difficult to put a price on the things we make. Personally, I have never made a real effort to sell my wares I have only been seriously sewing for about a year and quilting for a mere six months. I consider myself to still be learning, as such I am not ready to qualify what I make as ready to sell. This doesn't mean however, I do not want to consider this option in the future though.

The fact that I do not regularly sell my finished products does not stop people from asking. From the minute you let it out that you own a machine and use it regularly (or blog), the requests for sewing commissions start rolling in. So many times I hear, "Could you sew me this?" "Could you sew me that?" "I swear it won't take very long." On the one hand I find this very flattering and it really puts into perspective that despite the millions of sewing blogs out there very few people actually know how to sew. However, when making these grand requests all too often the wish is that you do this work for free. Mostly leveraging your friendship for the cost of the project. This can often lead to very difficult situations.

I have been known to knit, crochet, and sew as gifts. These are projects that I chose, I make, and I am happy to give away. I love giving handmade gifts as I realize presents something very special to the recipient that they could never buy in a store. Yet when someone comes to me asking to "make them something" for free I am often taken aback. Mostly because I think so few people recognize the cost involved to make things. My hobbies are not cheap- just ask my husband, he is constantly whining about the cost of components I need. The article I linked does a great job of breaking down the cost involved in sewing but what about fiber arts. I learned to knit and crochet well before I learned to sew and am far more proficient at it. I do not know how many times I have had people request "freebies" from me.

I remember one time specifically back when my husband played Magic: The Gathering competitively I took it upon myself to knit him a felted wool dice bag after months of him admiring mine. It came out lovely and he loved it. He brought it proudly to the shops where the other players would thus begin coveting it themselves. "I want one!" "I want one!" Then came the customization requests- I want one with mana symbols, I want the Captain America symbol, I want this color, I want that color! At the time I was still in university in my senior year and the idea of taking on any extra projects made me shudder. Especially this many intarsia projects using various colors. Well, I said to myself I suppose I can take on a few more bags. So, I said that I could do a custom bag for around $50 (a smoking deal if you ask me). Well, that stopped them in their tracks. I can still remember the look on their faces. "You want us to pay for them?"

I was amazed. Of course I wanted them to pay for them. I honestly felt like the boys just thought they fell out of a tree and I was just snatching them up and dropping them off. More than that these were the same boys that I had just witnessed drop sixty dollars for a Baneslayer Angel without any hesitancy whatsoever. So, I couldn't understand is how could my handcrafted original dice back not hold value to a mass printed card that cost the company mere cents to print in China. Maybe they didn't realize was the cost involved of producing something even as small as a dice bag.

To felt a dice bag as we all know you must use pure wool yarn. Wool is not cheap! Even at Joann's and Michael's not a custom yarn shop wool will run you seven to eight dollars a skein. Now multiply that by every desired colorway. Use two or more colors and you are already nearing the twenty dollar range. Then there is the cost of needles. It still shocks me the amount of money a store can charge for sticks- but alas they can and we pay it. To do my dice bags I knit on size seven double points (which retail at about eight bucks) and size five double points (also eight bucks). Now comes the big part though- time and energy! Intarsia is not easy, in fact, it took me many months to perfect knitting with multiple colors. For a university student coming up on exams it is really hard to give away your extra time, especially when depending on the difficulty of your knitting pattern even a relatively small dice bag can take 3-5 days to complete as I am not a machine and I did have to eat, sleep, study, and attend class at some point. Then I had to take the time to felt and block the bag. So, here I am expected to spend my hard earned money on yarn and supplies, hard pressed time to craft the bag, and then just give it to you out of the goodness of my heart. No way sweetheart!

Granted, I am in no way saying that every person is out to take advantage of hard working crafters. There are so many generous people out there that truly understand the plights of the made by hander and wish to reward them. I am more affirming the fact that few people really stop to think about what goes into creating a handmade product, and if they did perhaps they would realize they are truly getting their money's worth. More than that they would realize there is a reason these products generally cost more.

So, if you are wondering what is reasonable to charge for your finished projects just remember- do not undervalue the cost of your hard work, nor the cost to complete your project. This is your time and your money, two things which you will never get back.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Living Inside: Stardust

Catch A Falling Star

Some days I, like most I am sure, wish I could crawl inside my favorite books. One of my all time favorite books is Neil Gaiman's Stardust (I love it so much in fact that I stood in a line for six hours to have Mr. Gaiman sign my first edition hardcover graphic novel). I have often dreamt about styling a party based on Stardust in fact it may be the theme for my next birthday celebration but in the meantime would this just be the loveliest picnic ever? 

Monday, July 22, 2013

For Those Who Wander: Prescott, AZ

Normally on any given day I am quite hermit like, locked up in my craft room whiling away the days on my current project while watching documentaries (lately I have been on a dinosaur kick). Still, every once in awhile a girl just has to get out and about or risk potentially turning into some sort of scary goblin creature which probably resembles Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Yesterday was one of those days.

My husband spent the weekend playing in a golf tournament with his family in Prescott Valley and pointed out that there had been a craft fair of some sort  going on in Prescott proper so I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for a day trip exploring Prescott and then I could meet up with my husband for dinner after his match.

It was a brilliant idea I had a wonderful time exploring on my own. I spent a few hours walking around from antique shop to antique shop (of which there are about fifty on one stretch of road) and picking over the booths at the craft fair. I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of the beauty of Prescott. If you are like me and love to wander through stacks, and piles, and buildings full of old and unique wares- is this the town for you!

The craft fair itself was small but charming. It took place right in the courtyard of the county courthouse.

I think what I love most about Prescott is that it has a very quaint, old fashioned vibe. A strange mix of Victorian (a lot of Victorian architecture) and western (it is Arizona after all). It really meshes beautifully. For instance this bakery might be the cutest thing I had ever seen.

I am a sucker for trinkets and do dads. I like to fancy myself some sort of antique archeologist that I am going to walk into a junk shop and walk out with some sort of expensive prize the owner sold to me for five bucks. It hasn't happened yet but it hasn't stopped me from trying. In the meantime I simply like to marvel at the offerings at shops like these. For instance, this old sewing machine, these knitting needles (which I was seriously tempted by for 9 bucks but I prefer my smaller bamboo sets), and I couldn't help but chuckle at this Twilight book sitting amongst the stuff. I felt like it was some sort of modern art piece representing our fickle and changing interests as related to pop culture.

The minute I laid eyes on these magnets I knew I had to get one for my mother. Here in Arizona Tombstone is almost a religion.

Before heading out of town to meet up with my husband I noticed a gallery that was offering a fiber exhibit, curious I popped my head. I'm glad I did. The artist on display was a quilt artist. Each block was very unique and interesting. However, what I found most interesting was the prices for each piece. When you a crafter you always find yourself wondering, "how much is my craft worth?" Drafting a reasonable number is alway trouble. Well, coming from my art background I have always know that art is worth what the customer is willing to pay. Fine art can often have inflated prices depending on a myriad of reasons. So, I was shocked to see that most of the pieces in this gallery showing (which were about 12x12 quilt block squares mounted on some sort of decorative frame) ran about $140 each! Of course some were more reasonable (?) in the $75 range. Again when I took a step back and realized that these were not being sold as a piece of quilting and instead fine art I caught my breath. Still, many of my lovely and talented friends will send you a dramatic and gorgeous queen size quilt for the same price. Still I enjoyed the gallery exhibit. 

On the way home though began what I like to call the Battle of the Pie. If you have ever driven from Phoenix to Prescott or vice versa then you have seen the sign proclaiming the World's Best Pie. Well, being a Supernatural obsessed family like mine we are also a tad bit pie obsessed (I blame Dean). As I was driving the husband and I home all I could think about was how much I needed a slice of the World's Best Pie. However, my husband swore adamantly that he didn't remember seeing pie on the way up and thus it was probably in a different direction than we were going. Of course, I have made this trek many many times (though admittedly not in a while) and KNEW with absolute CERTAINTY that there was a pie place. In fact, we argued about it (playfully of course) for about twenty miles until I say the sign telling me to pull off the freeway for pie! Once I was out of the car I did a little I was right dance and we had pie. Not just pie- holy moly this is the greatest pie ever, pie. This was probably the best and most important time in my life in which I was right :).

This Sunday the husband and I leave for Missouri for vacation so I will be happy to wander on in a new state.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Facing Giants

It is Tuesday and after a very eventful Monday running errands and generally driving all over town I did eventually make it home and get some sewing done. I decided to throw together a Scrapbuster Block from leftovers in my scrap jar. I am working on practicing my piecing for more complicated quilt squares. Granted, the block itself is not complicated however, when piecing very small pieces I find that lining up all my elements are. Even in my finished project my alignment isn't spot on. Granted it just gives it a scrappy look and the square still came out to the right dimensions but it is something I am going to continue working at until it is perfect. However, I do love how this square came out. Next I am going to use it to practice my free hand quilting. I often liken free-hand quilting to Smaug the dragon from the hobbit: a great and terrible creature that is full of beauty and grace, but will eat your face. Yet, with practice all things are achievable so I am starting small with this little beauty in hopes to prepare me for my next big project.

Speaking of my next big project I have mentally committed to a project that I am sure is going to kill me. The other day my husband came into my sewing room and said that although he is really impressed with my quilts so far he has always wanted a "really big, squishy quilt." This is a desire we both share, I have always wanted a gorgeous handmade quilt for my bed. The only problem is we have a King sized bed, so I explained to my husband that I just can't fit that much material under my little Brother machine (by no fault of its own). So, what did the husband do? What my husband does, he jumps online and starts pricing out Janomes! Crazy man. Although it would be nice to have a new machine I insisted that one project was no reason to buy another expensive piece of equipment (I know I must be insane to talk my husband out of buying me a new machine, I still do not know how I managed to be so practical in the face of Janome glory), and I decided to investigate what options I had for building this piece on my current machine. So, far the best choice seems to be quilt as you go piecing which is a terribly neat idea and has a lot of potential. I have never tried it but really see the potential in completing a project so large as a King sized quilt.

 I had the pleasure of stopping by 35th Ave Vac and Sew yesterday which I have to say is a gem in the middle of Phoenix. Their staff is very friendly and helpful and their fabric selection is amazing! Perhaps, on the pricey side compared to what I usually pay (With fabric I am a bargain shopper all the way) and most prints are $10.99 a yard all day long BUT having ready access to the latest and great print releases without having to wait for an online order or paying shipping can quickly forgive paying full price.

I picked up a gorgeous fat pack of Indian Summer fabrics by Sarah Watson of Art Gallery Fabrics. The pack features all twenty prints in both colorways and I have to say it is probably the most adorable/ colorful fabric I have ever purchased. It caught my eye immediately and I didn't have to do much convincing to myself to buy it, I knew it was perfect for my King sized quilt project. I also bought a couple of yards of Kona Ash for assembling. At the moment I am still in the process of deciding exactly what pattern I am going to use for this project. I am leaning towards log cabins but will continue scouring the internet until inspiration strikes and I am truly ready to get cracking on something so huge!

 I cannot wait to start posting on my progress!

Fresh Poppy Design

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Free Book Bag Sewing Pattern

Hello there world, today I have a happy surprise, my first sewing pattern! When I purchased the Moda Charm Pack of "Get A Clue" fabric I knew I had to make something special with it. I thought what better way to celebrate my favorite book series growing up than a quilted book bag for my frequent library trips and general bag needingness. It is a simple project and perfect for beginner sewers and beginner quilters who are not quite ready to tackle a full size quilt. I hope you enjoy the pattern and the goods it produces. Please leave pictures and feedback in the comments. I would love to see some finished book bags!
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