Crazy Ugly Dog Blankets

A basket of sheeting scraps from practice muslins and one of those stiff fleece blankets from the 80's.

Sometimes I like a bit of what I call “unskilled sewing.”   At least it looks unskilled when I do it.

Right now I can’t imagine getting involved in a detailed project as I am constantly interrupted by the baby.  But I want to sew. 

Rooting through my stuff I found this basket of scraps from my practice muslins.  Often I make random household stuff out of this material and after seeing the dog shivering in her bin once winter set in, I decided to do some dog blankets.

Now let me tell you – my dog chews.  A bad habit.  But in this instance very freeing for me.

Combining some of Eleanor Burns’ Log Cabin quilt technique  with  the “Quilt as You Go” method and adding in some Paper Piecing ideas I came up with these truly crazy ugly dog blankets.

One Crazy Ugly Dog Blanket. Now there are several more where this came from and I have a tidy little pile of blankets for the dog's delight.

Totally freeform sewing.  Whatever fabric piece I reach for first is the one I use.  Not bothering to match thread, I use up my spare bobbins and leftover thread spools. If I get the seam right, wonderful, if not, so be it.  If the batting is a parallelogram rather than a rectangle, I don’t bother squaring the angles.

My dog enjoys adding some cotton fiber to her diet.

The goal – nothing wasted.  The attitude – who cares what it looks like.  The caveat – the dog may chew it anyway.

Hakuna Matata sewing – no worries.  It has been a lot of fun.  Stuff that was once only clutter around my house has been brought into use.   The blankets are admittedly ugly, but the dog has already begun her chewing.


Practicing Pintucks and Intuition Pays Off:Great Thrift Store Finds

This is the chest of drawers in my bedroom.  My husband wonders why he can’t put his t-shirts and socks in it.  That’s because it is storing my quilting fabric.  I have to empty at least two of these drawers to make room for baby clothes.

Why not pull the fat quarters and use them to practice some embellishment techniques that I have never quite mastered?

Right now I am practicing pintucks and other tuck variations, a technique I often find annoying as the results on garments can often go wonky no matter how carefully one has marked.   I also grabbed an Eleanor Burns quilting manual, pulled some compatible pieces from the chest, and began working up the material a few quilt blocks at a time.  I made as many blocks as I could out of my first little stack of material, and I have my next set sitting on the corner of my sewing table. 

Quilting is such a nice break from garment sewing and gives you some perspective.  After finishing the one Monkey’s Wrench block I wondered why I have been putting off sewing a pair of capri’s, already cut out, just because they have a pocket detail with which I am unfamilar.  If I can piece a quilt I should be able to handle that pocket.

My pintuck experiments and quilt blocks. The one with the red squares going diagonal is Jacob's Ladder and the one at the top right is Monkey Wrench. I also made two other blocks of the leftovers, they aren't formal quilt patterns, but I will use them somehow.

Wednesday morning something just told me to go to my local thrift store.  Intuition paid off.  I originally needed some more sheeting for practice muslins.  That’s the reason I told my husband I was going.  But I just knew in my gut that today better offerings were to be had. In the craft aisle I found several sewing patterns specifically for nursing moms! Wow!  I have never seen nursing patterns before and I am eager to sew up some practice pieces.

Patterns for nursing moms! I am so amazed. I have never seen such patterns before. To make the find even more joyous, all five are uncut and sold for a quarter. 🙂

I also found a set of curtains with adorable trim which will be extra special on one of my daughter’s dresses.  I might even use the clear nylon as lightweight interfacing.  A few more patterns turned up in the craft aisle, and I am dismantling the bathing suit top for the bra cups inside.  

My pile of thrift store goodies. The pile of fabric in back is not from the thrift store. Banasch's had a 50% off sale and practical me bought fabric for school uniforms. It is hard to believe, but in July I am going to have to start thinking about getting my daughter togged out for school.


Altogether a very satisfying thrift store run.  My total expenditure $9.06.  The fun I had, as the credit card company broadcasts – priceless.



A Marriage Milestone

Later this month my husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage.  We have known each other a long time and you might think that there are no surprises left.   Au contraire mon frere.  Today brought a true first in our relationship.

My husband cleaned out his own closet!

Normally I sneak in when he is at work and quietly divest him of faded sweaters and stained oxfords.  Or I gather pants that no longer fit and pile them on his side of the bed so he can’t lie down without seeing them.  Come 5 p.m. I see him reclining in the bed taking an after-work breather, the pile moved to my side.

That is when I hold each garment up one by one and say, “Do you still use/want/need this?”

I once asked if his mom had ever made him go through his clothes while growing up.  His baffled expression told me everything.

One can imagine then how dubious I was of last night’s proclamation.  While flipping through the channels he announced that he wants to own as few material possessions as possible.  He was going to aggressively thin his things, culling the stuff he no longer uses frequently and donate it to thrift.

I reminded him that I already do that and not to cull my things.  Then I expected him to forget.

He even got rid of the shoes he got married in, and that he had on when he spent two hours in the clink, but that is another story. I almost exhorted him to let me get them resoled, then I remembered that I had recently trashed the wedding garter belt . Sentiment aside, I let him pitch them in the bin.

Well, a man can still surprise you after a decade!  As a teacher he is on summer break.  This morning we got up, we made the bed, then he shooed me from the room, opened up his closet door and began. 

Two large bags of clothes are sitting by our door destined for donation; I am mystified as to what got into him.  He even showed me where he had moved the sweaters and suit jackets to the back of the closet because they were “out of season” evincing a level of sartorial forethought that he has heretofore pooh-poohed. 

Wow, you think you know a man, and then he pulls out something like that.  I gotta love him! 😉

UFO’s: Which to Stick With and Which to Chuck?

The UFO's I found top of hand. I'm sure there are more secreted away in dark corners.

My craft decluttering has unearthed several UFO’s.  Many of them are quilting related as those pieces have stalled.  The Hello Kitty machine suffices for garment sewing, but does not allow me to drop the feed dog for freehand motion quilting, nor is the arm large enough to wad a quilt underneath. 

I have a hard time making decisions on quilting supplies and projects.  The scraps seem eminently useful.  But they tend to add up to behemoth piles of fraying pieces.   Even if I don’t like how a quilt top is turning out I tend to go ahead and finish it because I think to myself all that I am learning.  And I am at least putting that fabric to practical use.

But with baby on the way and all of our spare funds going towards doctor’s bills and home repair, I need to make some hard choices. 

What projects do I stick with and which do I chuck?

Serendipitiously I came across this little book at the library the dip:A little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick) by Seth Godin.

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Quit) by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a business writer and you might imagine he doesn’t have much to say to crafters.   But it is a cool little book and I found it very apt.  Some of the reviewers on Amazon said that they thought sticking through the rough patches was general knowledge.  It is.  But sometimes you really need to know when to quit.

In the middle of a trying spell it is nice to hear a friendly voice urging you on, and additionally, providing valid criteria for when it is appropriate to quit and move on.

Pages 66-69 gives three questions to ask oneself in regards to quitting.

  1. Am I panicking?

  2. Who am I trying to influence? (As a crafter I think that can read; What is my Goal?)

  3. What sort of measurable progress am I making?

Godin points out that high emotion is not a good reason to quit as it becomes expensive to continue starting projects afresh.  

If the goal of my project is to learn new technique then maybe I want to continue even if the results are wonky.  But if the goal is to give as a gift and it doesn’t look gift-worthy, possibly scrapping and starting again is the better option. 

And what rate of progress am I making?  Is this the kind of project that crawls along, and is that acceptable?  Or do I have to finish in a short time to give as a gift, or to simply keep workflow going on other exciting projects?

One by one, over the next few days I am going to look at each of my UFO’s and run them through the above criteria.  I will fill you in on what I decide.

And I might read through this little volume one more time for emotional support. 🙂

Next Post: Tuesday, April 12.2011: Maternity Wardrobe Woes

A Day Late

But hopefully not a dollar short!

I am in my twelfth week of pregnancy and going into my seventh week straight of nausea.  I’m starting to get testy and run down.  Yesterday’s post did not make it to print because I spent the day asleep.  Whenever I sit down, I nod right off.  If whatever hormonal liqueur that is causing this could be distilled down for insomniacs I would make a fortune!

In lieu of sewing I am decluttering my craft stuff.   Fabric, patterns, books, and tools I have done so far.  Got rid of a lot of patterns and fabric, but hardly any tools or books.   Those are important resources and I just tidied them. 

Now for my next to last craft declutter:beads. 

I used to bead quite a lot but now I don’t for various reasons.  As I looked through my stash I realized that most of it reflected my tastes from an earlier stage of life, and I get discouraged when I sift through trying to find things I like.  I got real with myself and got rid of half of my stash.  It hurt a little because I kept thinking, “Hey, I paid money for that!”  Really cool beads are not cheap. 

After I had sifted the donate from the keep I felt so much better that I even picked up a beading magazine which I haven’t done for years.  Just knowing what I have and where it is left me some clarity and a renewed interest in making jewelry.

Now I have only one more craft-related declutter.  Going through unfinished projects and deciding which I want to keep and which to move on.  That is the hardest for me because I see where I have invested time. 

Next Post: Thursday, April7, 2011: Gathering up those UFO’s.

The Two Year Test: One Way to Thin Your Pattern Collection

Currently unable to sew for myself or for the upcoming baby, I am concentrating instead on clearing excess out of my house.  My goal has been to reduce my craft stash by at least 30%. 

I pull out a bin of say fabric or patterns, make a quick count, and then use a calculator to reach 30%.  For example if I have 20 pieces of fabric on a shelf, 20 X .30 = 6.  My goal is to get rid of six pieces either through donation or trash.  ( I know using a calculator appears a bit anal-retentive, but how am I to know if I have reached my goal if I don’t have correct numbers?)

This approach took out nearly half of my fabric stash as reported in last Tuesday’s post.   I am moving systematically around the craft storage area and patterns were next.

I store my patterns by category in file boxes. I spread it all out on the bed to make it easier to go through.

Pattern reduction can be hard.  When I pull an envelope out and see the front photo, I always think, “maybe?”  Or, “You will never know when this will be just the thing I want to sew!”

Luckily this time around I have a built-in gauge.  Not only is pregnancy nausea making me lose my sentimentality, but the pregnancy itself is giving me structured parameters.

Given pregnancy, nursing, and babycare I have about two years before I am back to my pre-pregnancy size.  All I had to ask myself was

Am I Going to Want to Wear This Garment Two Years from Now?

Or Will There Probably be Some New Fashion I am Excited About?

Asking myself those simple questions rid me of 50 patterns!

I started out with 192 patterns, got rid of 50, leaving me with 142 patterns.  Not exactly pattern poverty I understand, but a considerable reduction.

Here is a typed version of the chart I scribbled on the back of an old receipt as I worked through the pattern stash.

The next item on the chopping block is the bead cabinet.  Yes, I used to bead and make jewelry often before I had my daughter.  Finishing the closures  or nipping the ends of wrapped wire can can cause small bits of metal and fiberglass to land I know not where on my floor, just ready to splinter into little bare feet.   Over the past few years I have backed off of this hobby.  I think I should move some of my stash on so current crafters can get some joy out of it. 

Next Post: Tuesday, April 5, 2011: God Willing!  I hope nausea does not impede me from going through the bead stash.  If I get it done, I promise to report. 🙂

My Sewing Sentimentality has Gone the Way of my Appetite.

Still too queasy and tired to sew.  I have a stack of cleaning cloths to serge on the sewing table, some of the easiest sewing of all, but still undone.

For now, I am have to be content to do sewing related things.  This week it was another stash bash.  My criteria was if I wasn’t going to be able to use the fabric for another two years, due to pregnancy and nursing, then I would pass it on.   I often see sewers trolling the craft section of one local thrift so I decided to take my excess there.   Because in two years time, the trends will have changed, the colors will have changed and I probably will have changed too.  Let it bless someone who can get enjoyment out of it today.

Brought my fabric stash from the back room and laid it out on my bed to go through.

I had 54 fabric lengths total including both garment and practice/wearable muslin yardage.   Got rid of 17 pieces, about 46% of my stash!  I did it in one afternoon.  And I didn’t shed a tear.  Apparently my sewing sentimentality has vanished along with my appetite.

Now I have only to tackle the quilting fabric!  But that is for another day. 🙂

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