Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Update: Master Bath Makeover

Since I last posted about this project, my Master Bath and Master Closet trim, walls, ceilings and cabinetry have all been painted and all of the cabinetry has been glazed by my amazing decorative painter.  It looks SO much better now!

Here's another shot where you can see the whole wall of newly configured cabinetry with the custom mirrors and sconces:

My pictures look kind of weird; the walls aren't yellow at all, they are Sherwin Williams Believable Buff.  Trimwork is Sherwin Williams Dover White, and cabinetry was base-coated in Dover White and then glazed with a taupey brown to soften the cabinetry and give it a little warmth and character.

I hate that horrible little stool with the pea soup colored Waverly floral fabric, but I need something to sit on until I come up with a replacement.  I've fallen in love with this embroidered linen/silk blend fabric from Lee Jofa for the bathroom and/or bedroom window treatments:

...but it's ghastly expensive and I haven't had time to find any coordinates yet.  I need a window treatment in the bath, a vanity seat, and a small upholstered bench or chair next to the tub (so Bernie can sit there and say things like, "Why are you putting all that crap on your face?" while I'm getting ready to go out).  Also on my list is replacing all of the cheap brass plated door hardware with oil rubbed bronze, but I haven't had a chance to order the new hardware yet. 

I have been working longer hours than usual because one of my clients had a house fire last week and I've been scrambling to get her paperwork organized so I can estimate current replacement values for everything for her insurance company.  I worked on this client's home for over a year and a half, and I'm almost as devastated as she is to see all my beautiful designs covered in soot and smoke.

Oh, and I seem to have screwed up my back pretty badly again.  It's been bugging me since my daylily weed-a-thon and I've been trying to ignore it, but it's getting worse instead of better.  Apparently ignoring the pain and running on the treadmill yesterday was not a good idea.  Today, my back hurt when I tried to sit, stand, or walk, and I can't straighten my spine all the way to stand completely upright, but as long as I'm laying flat on my back I'm pain free.  Who has time for this nonsense?!  I have way too much work to do to be an invalid!  So in case you're wondering, no, I haven't gotten a chance to get back to Princess Petunia's pettiskirt yet.  Hopefully I'll feel better in a few days so I don't have to waste time at the doctor's office.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Founding Fathers, Gun Control, and the American Right of Revolution

I just read a terrific post by Kaili Joy Gray on her blog Daily Kos: State of the Nation by way of Cafe Mom.  The article is entitled "Why Liberals Should Love the Second Amendment" and it was prompted by the uproar over recent Supreme Court decisions extending firearm rights

I'm going to send you away now, to read Gray's post.  Click this link, then come back to me when you're finished:

I approve of the Supreme Court's decision, I agree wholeheartedly with Gray's conclusions, but I have to pipe up about all of her references to "the Founding Fathers' Intent." The Second Amendment is a direct legacy of the American Revolution and was definitely intended by the founders to ensure that, if needed, ordinary Americans would be able to get their hands on firearms to once again fire "the shot heard round the world."  However, the phrase "our Founding Fathers intent" is bandied about by both sides of every constitutional argument to support their agenda, and it grates on my nerves every time I hear it or read it.

The Constitution of the United States of America has served us well over the past 220+ years since ratification because it was well-crafted initially and because it has been tweaked with appropriate amendments as needed over time, so I'm all in favor of our constitution. However, our Constitution is not the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran. It is not the word of God, and the so-called Founding Fathers were not infallible prophets but imperfect human beings, a mixture of good and bad, altruism and selfishness. They were very much men of their time and they did not have the power to envision the United States in its current form. Most likely they would all be horrified by what they would see as the excessive democracy and mayhem of our modern society, government, and culture. Just who were these "Founding Fathers" we speak of with such reverence?

An overwhelming majority of the men who collaborated on our Constitution, including Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington, were wealthy members of the colonial elite, and the government they devised was designed largely to preserve and protect the interests of the privileged classes to which they belonged. Moreover, much of the best-loved and most inclusive language about "we the People" in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights was put there to mask class struggles between rich and poor and to redirect the impoverished colonists' anger against the British government instead of against their wealthy colonial neighbors.

Even in the early years of our nation's history, when the Founding Fathers themselves were at the helm of government, provisions in the Constitution that promoted a strong Federal government and were advantageous to the economic interests of the wealthy were most rigorously enforced. Meanwhile, in 1798, during the administration of Founding Father John Adams and just seven years after the First Amendment protecting free speech was passed, Congress passed the Sedition Act which made it a crime to say or write anything "false, scandalous, or malicious" against Congress, the President, or the government. Americans were convicted and imprisoned under this law, and the Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional. George W. Bush's contempt for civil liberties is actually closer to the Founding Fathers’ original intent than many Americans would care to believe.

So to me, what's great about our Constitution and the reason for its endurance and continued usefulness has not so much to do with the intentions of the Founding Fathers, and everything to do with the efforts of those who have believed in the ideals of political equality and social justice enough to fight for them in the streets and in the courthouses of America. What's great about the United States is that when they told us that power derives from the people and belongs to the people, we believed it and have struggled throughout our history to make it so.

So, getting back to the issue at hand, the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms. Historically, in the context of late eighteenth-century America in the wake of the Revolution, the right to bear arms was indisputably meant to ensure that ordinary people could rise up against oppressive government if necessary. And before we dismiss that by saying we've already had our revolution, now our government is good and just and we won't ever need to revolt again, let's look at the history of a couple of other revolutions. The French celebrated Bastille Day this week, commemorating the anniversary of the overthrow of their monarchy in 1789. Many Americans don't realize that it took three subsequent revolutions in France before the French got their current form of government. Look at the Russian revolution. In the early aftermath of the overthrow of the tsar, when socialism still meant power to the people and an end to oppression, who would have thought that "the people" would ever need arms to revolt against themselves?  No one envisioned the abuses the Soviet Union would inflict upon its people in 1917.  Yes, the need for revolution seems unlikely in the United States today, even comical, perhaps. But history is full of chaos and upheaval, with violent revolutions preceded by eras of deceptive calm that people thought would last forever. I'm not suggesting that we all rush out to buy guns so we're ready to fight on the barricades tomorrow. However, if the second amendment were scrapped altogether or dismissed by the Supreme Court as a quaint anachronism, then restrictive laws such as those in Chicago and the District of Columbia would likely spread throughout the nation. Statistics show that the Chicago and D.C. handgun bans did not prevent criminals from obtaining guns and did not decrease violent crime, but those laws made it impossible for law-abiding citizens to obtain handguns. Government is always in a state of flux, with the pendulum swinging between oppression and redress, and I believe that safeguarding our civil liberties is the best insurance we have against government ever growing so oppressive that we would need to scrap it all and start over again through a bloody, painful revolution. It's so much easier for a government to enslave and oppress people who are not allowed to speak their minds, who don't get to vote, and who don't get to defend themselves.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pettiskirt Progress: The Ruffler Cooperates and Conjures Up Some Frills

I promised to post some big, high resolution images once I figured out where to put the fabric in the ruffler foot, so here they are.  I put the 2" frill strip between the ruffler teeth and loosely into the guide suggested by the pattern instructions, but I disregarded what the pattern said about putting the 5" wide bottom tier fabric into another slot of the ruffler foot.  Instead, I put the flat tier fabric completely underneath the ruffler foot, not in any grooves or channels or guides whatsoever, which is how the Bernina video I posted last time suggested. 

In this shot, hopefully you can see how the 2" ruffle strip sits in that little elbow-shaped guide (I know it's hard to tell with the sheer fabric).  You can't really use that as a guide, though; you have to eyeball the center of your frill strip as it's stitching.  You have to keep an eye on the flat bottom layer as well in order to keep that 1/2" seam allowance with the frill edge extending 1/2" past that, and once again, a long-ago impulse-buy from the notions aisle came to my rescue.

I switched back to my regular clear presser foot and used a square see-through quilting ruler to line up with the needle and the markings on the stitch plate, then used hot pink Olfa Glo-Line Tape to mark exactly where the edge of the bottom layer of fabric needed to be in order to attach the ruffle 1/2" from the raw edge of the bottom tier.  This narrow, low-tack tape is sold in a package with several different colors, and is meant to be used for temporarily marking lines on quilting rulers.  I hated the tape for its intended purpose, but I'm glad I didn't throw it away because the pink line was very easy to see through the blue chiffon and it made it much easier to feed the two fabric layers in more or less accurately.  It doesn't leave any sticky residue on your sewbaby, either.

Now, remember in my last pettipost I told you that I measured a 24" strip of fabric and made sure it measured 6" after ruffling so I knew I had the ruffler foot adjusted to 4x fullness?  Well, now is the part where you get to learn from my mistakes so your pettiskirt will turn out better than mine.  Look at how many ruffle strips were leftover after I ran out of bottom tier to stitch it to!  I was so busy keeping my frill strip feeding through so it stitched down the middle and keeping my flat layer feeding through next to my hot pink line, that I didn't notice that the flat layer was gathering slightly along with the frill strip and I wasn't getting the fulness I was supposed to get in the ruffle.  So next time, I'm going to do my test ruffling the exact same way I'll be stitching my project -- I should have measured a 24" strip of ruffle and made sure it gathered down to 6" when I was simultaneously stitching to a flat fabric layer, instead of just sewing the ruffle alone for the test.

I didn't realize anything was amiss until I was at least halfway through ruffling the frill onto the bottom skirt tier.  At that point I was able to compensate by putting a bit of resistance or drag on the flat bottom layer as I fed it through, which kept it flat and allowed the top frill to gather up a LOT tighter.  Since I'm making a double layer skirt, I'll just put the less-frilly layer underneath.  Here's what the not-frilly-enough wimpy portion looks like:

...and here's what the whole thing was supposed to look like, with the frill gathered to 4x fullness:

MUCH better, right?  I am tempted to pull out all of the wimpy ruffles and redo them, using up the rest of my frill strips, but it's about 20 yards' worth and I'm worried that I'll rip the chiffon and end up with an even bigger mess.  I don't have enough chiffon to cut a new bottom layer strip and start over from scratch.

When the whole thing is piled up on the table, you can't tell some frills are frillier than others.

That's just the bottom tier of a 3-tier skirt, mind you, and it's going on a little 2-year-old.  Hmmm...  Am I being neurotic about this?

Well, I have to take a breather from this project for a few days anyway because I have a ton of work to do on clients' projects, my house is a disaster, and I'm trying to find time to learn new interior design software, new embroidery software, and my new iPhone.  When I come back to the pettiskirt this weekend, I think I will unpick the stitches on my test sample and see whether I can remove the ruffle without ripping holes in the fabric.  Once I see how that goes, I'll decide whether I rip and redo or continue sewing and make the best of what I've got.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lars and Anders On Location at Lowe's Home Improvement Store

We're trying to cut back on screen time for the kids this summer, yet shopping trips continue to be a challenge for them.  By the time we leave a store, every employee and customer in the joint knows my kids' names and is glad to see us leave.  Ahem.  So in the past, I've brought the Nintendo DSi game systems to keep them calm and out of mischief, but like I said, I'm trying to cut back on that, so we tried something different when we went on a family shopping trip to Lowe's Home Improvement store yesterday.  I let Lars bring his little Lego digital camera that he got for Christmas last year.  It looks like it's made of Legos, and you can customize it by adding additional Lego bricks, but it's an actual working digital camera with a flash and everything.  So Anders mugged for the camera while Lars played photographer.  I uploaded Lars's pictures after we got home and thought I'd share a few of the highlights -- I know his Opa will get a kick out of his grandson's budding interest in taking pictures of EVERYTHING!  All of these pictures were taken by Lars using the Lego camera.  Here's Anders doing a Batman impersonation outside the store:

Next we have Anders trying out a John Deere tractor, because it is green:

And of course then Lars asked Anders to take his picture sitting on the Husqvarna tractor, because it is orange:

Next we have Anders shopping for power tools.  That red "Z" on his forehead was self-inflicted with a red ink pen, and is supposed to be a Harry Potter scar.

And now, Anders/Batman being a tough guy in the gardening aisle:

Unfortunately, all of this good clean fun devolved into raucous bathroom humor and inappropriate photos when we got to the toilet displays in the bath fixtures section of the store.  I had to confiscate the camera at that point, so I'm not sure I'll be bringing it with us the next time we head out shopping.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fabulous Use of Antique Quilts & Quilting Motifs in This Remodeled Texan Guest House

Okay, this one is for all of you interior design lovers AND for the quilt lovers and quilt makers out there.  One of the most elegant interior design blogs I've seen is Cote de Texas, where a Houston designer chronicles French-inspired design on the Texas coast with regular doses of inspiration and and a smorgasbord of delicious photographs that make her readers want to climb through their monitor screens and take up residence in each beautiful home.  Recently, Cote de Texas did a feature on the newly remodeled Cotton-Eye Joe guest house in Abilene, Texas, owned by Terry Browder of Sayles Ranch Guesthouses.  Browder took a plain, blah, boring house and created a fresh, chic interior that reflects its Texan roots without crossing over to the Dark Side of kitsch and country clich├ęs.  The end result is so beautiful, I want to go to Abilene, Texas just to stay in this guest house!  I especially love how Browder repurposed antique quilts as upholstery fabric for these dining chairs, and how she incorporated various traditional quilt patterns in the painted hardwood floors throughout the guest house. 

That's just one little picture to whet your appetite; there are dozens more where that came from and each one is just as gorgeous.  Without further ado, click this link to be whisked away to Cote de Texas to tour the rest of this project; then come back here and tell me what you think!

COTE DE TEXAS: An Abilene Remodel

Garden Blaaaaahhh... Heat Wave + Neglect = Ugly

I would love to tell you that this is what my garden looks like today:

...But no, I took that picture at The Sanctuary resort on Kiawah Island two weeks ago.  Okay, now in the spirit of honesty and humility, I'm going to post some ugly recent pictures of my real garden.

Isn't it sad?  Look at my Stella d'Ora day lilies that were blazing with yellow blooms just a month ago!  In my defense, it's been roasting hot for weeks and I've been hiding out in the air conditioning for the most part.  After taking this picture, I spent several hours over the past few days hunched/crouched over, pulling out dead foliage and yanking out the dried up stalks and seed pods.  By the way, the green succulent groundcover at the front of the bed is purslane that we planted to replace the daisies and blue flowers that didn't like growing there, but we'll talk more about that later.  First I want to show you a close-up of all the crud I pulled out of the day lilies -- I don't dig my own holes, but I prune crape myrtles, pull weeds, and tidy up the flower beds myself. 

See?  At first I was thinking the reduced blooming might indicate that these lilies need to be dug up and divided in the fall, but once I pulled out all the dead and dying foliage the plants didn't look nearly as crowded anymore.  I'm guessing my error was leaving the seed pods on the plants, those bulbous green things that seem at first glance to be flower buds, but they are more rounded and when they eventually open they have black seeds in them.  I've read that removing spent blooms on daffodils and other bulbs encourages better blooming, that the plant diverts energy away from flowers when they are doing the seed pod thing, and a quick google search on the Stella d'Ora variety indicated that their seed pods should be removed, too.  Hopefully my backbreaking labor in hundred degree heat will turn out to have been time well spent.  Already the bed looks healthier and greener, but of course I want my masses of yellow flowers to come back!

So, back to the purslane, which we've really been enjoying.  I took the picture of the day lilies in the late afternoon, when all the purslane flowers go into hiding like little red turtles tucked away inside their shells.  Here's what they look like every morning:

Isn't that pretty?  It would be even better with a mass of yellow lilies behind it...  But we're loving the purslane because it's drought-tolerant, so it's thriving and spreading out even in this horrible heat spell, despite neglect and indifference, and it's cute how the flowers all disappear in the afternoon and then pop out like Jack-in-the-boxes first thing in the morning. 

We have some yellow ones in planters by the front steps, too, with canna bulbs planted beneath them. I wish we had planted the cannas sooner because if we had, they could be blooming their big, tropical, orange flowers right now, but the yellow purslane and purplish red canna foliage is pretty together in the meantime.  Those are purple pansies in the other planter, by the way.  I think they should have been yanked and replaced with something summery a long time ago, but Bernie says "they're doing great."  I can't get my way all the time, or so he keeps telling me...

Now, back to some wretched plant misery!  Look at this dogwood tree that we transplanted early in the Spring.  It's tucked way in the back behind the kids' fort, in a woodsy area where I rarely venture because of the swarms of vicious mosquitos.  It didn't even occur to me to check on the dogwood back there in the shade, but apparently we don't have any irrigation back there yet and the poor baby is hurting pretty badly.  It's a really pretty pink dogwood, too, that we had originally planted in the front yard but had to move it because it couldn't take so much sun.  I don't want to lose it!

THAT, my friends, is what happens when you forget to water your beautiful African impatiens.  First I took the picture, then I ran for the watering can, and by the next day the plant was miraculously recovered, but I don't know whether I'll be able to get it to bloom again. 
My new azaleas have been suffering away in the back yard, too.  Man, we just planted these!  They are supposed to be growing and spreading, not shriveling up and turning brown!  Oh, the AGONY!
Well, we definitely need to add a sprinkler zone back in that area.  I want to plant more azaleas, rhododendrons, hostas, and ferns along the edge of the whole woodsy area that divides our back yard from the sidewalk, but I can't have everything curling up and dying on me. 
I can't end on such a dreary note, either, so here's a picture I took of my mom's red crape myrtle trees when we were at her house for Independence Day:
Keep cool this summer, and don't forget to water your plants!  I'm headed up to my sewing studio to try to make friends with my ruffler foot again.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oh Where, Oh Where is my New iPhone 4?!!

This is my first experience with Apple.  Well, the first since my husband made me get rid of my old Macintosh Classic from college because his friends were making fun of him.  The only apples I've touched in the last 12 years have been the kind with seeds in them.  So, silly me, when I heard that the new iPhone 4 was available, I thought that meant I could just go to a store, buy one, and take it home with me.  Wrong!  It means I have to wait forever for someone to assist me, and hope I don't hyperventilate from claustrophobia in the meantime from being crammed into the tiny Apple store with about a million other saps.  Only to have the zany, hip-looking sales boy tell me that they only have the new iPhone available for people who pre-ordered them three weeks ago.  Come again?  So I tried Best Buy, the AT&T Store, and Radio Shack.  Same story everywhere.  Why is Apple spending so much money hyping up a product that no one has available for sale?  Obviously they are deliberately creating a situation where demand exceeds supply to make everyone want it more, and when you know other people got on waiting lists to buy the phone you are supposed to think, "it must be a great phone if all these other people are willing to line up and wait for it."  Whatever. 

My Verizon contract is up, and my Blackberry has been driving me crazy with its tiny little screen and annoying quirks, and everyone who has an iPhone can't stop gushing about how great they are...  So on Monday, my husband went to the AT&T store and ordered my phone.  They told him it would ship directly to me, and I would have it in three days (or at least this is what he remembers them telling him), and when I get it I just bring it in to the store for them to switch everything over.  I waited patiently for three days, yet no phone has appeared.  I'm guessing either the sales guy at the AT&T store was lying to get the sale, misspoke accidentally, or else Bernie misheard him.  Everyone else was quoting lead time in weeks, not days.

This is so annoying.  Once I finally get the phone, I'm going to have to invest some time learning how to use it and how to get it synched up with my business email account, etc., and I hate learning new techno-gadgets.  I just want them to instantly work.  There should be an app that downloads the instruction manual directly into my brain, like in The Matrix.

The Ruffled Riot? Ruffler's Revenge? Or Ruffler Redeemed? The Jury is Still Out

Okay, so last night after the kids were asleep I did get into my studio and get my Bernina Artista 200E/730E sewbaby set up with Ruffler Foot #86.  I cut a test strip of chiffon 24" long, and it ruffled up to 6" on the very first try without any further adjustments, so I'm all set for the 4x fullness that my pettiskirt calls for.  I ended up using a size 70 quilting needle, stitch length 2.5, and regular construction weight Metrosene polyester thread, all of which seem to be working fine, and I switched to my straight stitch throat plate and set the machine to run at half speed.  Here's my little sample ruffle strip, slightly wonky but not bad for a first try:

However, my pattern instructions want me to stitch down the CENTER of my 2" hem frill strips while simultaneously attaching them 1/2" from the edge of the bottom skirt tier, which will save lots of time and thread.  So my next trial run involved ruffling down the center of the top frill layer while simultaneously stitching it to the flat layer, but I'm having trouble feeding the two fabric strips evenly so that the stitching stays right down the center of the frill, but just 1/2" from the edge of the flat piece, and I have a feeling it's because I'm not using the guide slots on the ruffler foot properly. 

See?  I started out sewing down the center of the frill, but then I began to veer off towards the sides as I started paying attention to the bottom fabric layer.  The pattern talks about "insert the hem frill in slot G1, and insert the skirt tier in slot G2."  The pictures aren't large enough and the resolution isn't good enough to be able to see exactly where the pattern author is threading which fabric over which guide, and the transparency of the fabric doesn't add to the photo's clarity, either.  I threaded the bottom fabric layer through the little fork-prong-thingys, but that just made the edge of that fabric layer curl under like a rolled hem, which you can see in this photo of the wrong side:

The so-called instructions that came with the ruffler foot are a waste of tree pulp, and the Bernina Feetures books, which have been a godsend with most of my Bernina footsies, don't shed light on this dilemma either.  Why does it matter?  Well, it would be relatively easy to feed the two fabrics through with cut edges aligned, but when the top layer has to be offset by 1/2" and there's no "barrier" guide for either fabric, they just want to slip and slide all over the place -- and this is with my machine set at half speed, or about 450 stitches per minute (my drapery workroom friends will laugh at me because their speed racer commercial machines make domestic machines seem like slowpokes to begin with). 

So I went to the Bernina web site in hopes of finding a better photo, or video, showing how the fabrics should be inserted into the guides for different applications, and came up empty handed.  However, I did find a helpful little video clip there showing how the ruffler foot works and how to adjust the fullness of the pleats or gathers.  This would have been helpful the first time I took the ruffler foot out of the box, and if you are new to your ruffler foot I think this video shows how it works better than any of the written instructions.  In this video, they seem to be putting the flat layer of fabric completely underneath the ruffler attachment, not in any guides at all, so maybe I will try that next.  Maybe I just need a little more practice with it, too.  So far, I have spent about 10 minutes actually sewing, and an hour and a half researching and blogging about it. 

If/when I finally figure this out, I'm going to post a very LARGE, high-resolution photo showing EXACTLY where you should stick your fabric...  Oh wait; that doesn't sound good...

Lars Is Up to Mischief at Midnight!

It's after midnight, and Lars is up to something.  His bedroom is directly above my office, and I hear him thumping and bumping around up there.  Probably has some kind of extremely odd light source hidden under his covers so he can read -- and I know it's going to be a weird light source because I've already confiscated all of the ordinary things such as flashlights and head lamps (oh yes!).  The last time I caught him reading under the covers, he had his digital camera and he was using the light from the preview screen to read.  The time before that, it was a science invention kit my sister (Susan, not Janice the Manice) had given him, and he'd built himself some kind of a lamp.

I've been hearing his tell-tale thumps and bumps intermittently for over an hour now, but I haven't gone up and busted him.  Why not?  Well, it's the summer, for one thing, and he doesn't have camp this week so it's not the end of the world if he sleeps in a little.  Plus, it's kind of cute.  He has no idea I'm letting him get away with it.  In a few minutes I'll head upstairs, and I'll take away his book and whatever contraption is illuminating it, but for now I'll let him be a 9-year-old boy reading a good book under the covers on a hot summer night.

I can't believe my little Lars is 9 1/2 already!  Wasn't he a bald little 2-year-old just the other day?

I thought he looked like a miniature Fraser Crane at that stage, with the little wispy curls around the sides and back, and a shiny little bald dome on top.

...and now here he is, about a month ago, programming his Lego Mindstorm robot on his laptop.  To all of you mommies out there whose babies are still small, enjoy every minute of it and take lots of pictures!  It goes by in a blur, like a train speeding away from the station. 

Okay, 12:30 AM is late enough for a rising 4th grader to be awake, don't you think?  Time to go enforce the law of bed time!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pre-cut Rolls of ANIMAL PRINT Nylon Chiffon for Pettiskirt Projects!

I've just died and gone to fabric heaven (again)!  My friend Tammi's comment to my previous post about leopard print chiffon inspired me to do a quick google search, and I was delighted to discover that AFC Express has recently added pre-cut rolls of animal print nylon chiffon to their product offerings.  This is the site I purchased my turquoise nylon chiffon yardage from, and they definitely didn't have this stuff at that time.  They are selling each of these prints in 30 yard rolls in various widths from 2" to 10", perfect for pettiskirt projects of all sizes.  Can't you just see a zebra print pettiskirt with a red ribbon sash, or a cheetah print skirt with hot pink?  I'm sure I have grown as a person and learned valuable lessons from yesterday's folding and cutting ordeal, but I have a feeling I'm going to be making an animal print skirt the easy way with these pre-cut rolls next time.  Maybe I'll make the leopard print skirt in a women's size 6...  How embarrassed would Lars be if I wore a twirly princess skirt next time I took him to the grocery store?

Man, I can think of all sorts of uses for these precut rolls of chiffon...  They could be used as frill "stripes" going down a sheer drapery panel or bed drape for a funky 'tween girl's bedroom, for instance...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Princess Petunia's Pettiskirt: Making a Start at Last!

A week ago, I was all fired up about starting this girly-girl pettiskirt project, and then I got an emailed video clip from Janice the Manice that featured Princess Petunia, twirling around and dancing in the pink tutu and rhinestone tiara that Janice's mother-in-law bought for her.  *SIGH!*  I know, a tutu in hand is worth two pettiskirts in the bushes, and a grandmother on a shopping mission cannot be stopped.  Still I felt discouraged and had to sulk for a few days, wondering whether my pettiskirt efforts would be in vain, despairing over whether the pettiskirt of my not-yet-started-labors would be redundant.  Yes, my pettiskirt will be nicer than this little pink costume tutu, but what are the odds that my two-year-old neice will have developed a sufficiently discriminating eye for fashion to make that distinction?

Janice the Manice (my little sister) says that the pink tutu is a costume that lives in the toybox and is not permitted to be worn outside the house.  She says that the tutu is scratchy, and does not make a satisfying swooshy noise when twirled.  She says that the turquoise pettiskirt can be worn all day long with a cute little tee shirt, and leggings in the fall.  In a nutshell, Janice the Manice says that SHE can tell the difference between the tutu and the Pettiskirt of Dreams, and she still wants me to make the pettiskirt.  I feel so much better now!

In case you missed my previous posts about this project, I'm using the pattern instructions from Kari Me Away.  So today I accomplished Step One: Cutting the Fabric.  This sounds so deceptively simple, but it turns out that nylon chiffon is a slippery, uncooperative beast when you are trying to fold a 16-yard piece up to about 36" wide so it fits on your cutting mat, all the while keeping the selvages and cut edges lined up neatly and wrinkle-free.  The idea is to cut all the strips lengthwise instead of across the grain, because there are a LOT of strips to cut.  Fourteen 2" x 576" strips and four 5" x 576" strips, to be exact.  After an initial failed attempt at folding and packaging the nylon chiffon on my own, I called in reinforcements in the form of my mother, and we battled the fabric together.  What finally ended up working best was folding the fabric in midair like a sheet, using mini binder clips to hold the slippery edges together between folds.  Then we'd have it hanging smoothly in the air, but everything would shift out of whack when we laid the fabric down on the cutting table, until I remembered my handy dandy tag gun.

I bought this nifty contraption from Rowley Company.  It works just like the tag guns that retail stores use to attach price tags to garments, except that I have 1/4" and 1/2" tags instead of the long ones for price tags.  I bought it for my drapery installation tool box that I keep in my car, as it comes in handy for things like training jabots and cascades to hang properly.  Whereas pinning can cause an unnatural-looking pucker in a drapery treatment, that little bit of slack left by the tag gun holds the folds in place the way I want them but with a much more natural effect.  Anyway, while my mother held the folded fabric up in midair, I used the tag gun to secure the fabric down both 54" long sides as well as across the bottom.  Then, when we moved it to the table, we had far less shifting and were able to get the fabric completely smooth and wrinkle free for cutting. 

You can see the little tags better in the closeup picture.  I used a small scissors to clip and remove the tags as I came to them while I was cutting. 

The rotary cutter and cutting mat were a godsend for this, although part of me felt that I should be cutting into fabric for a new quilt instead of this evil slippery chiffon, but all in due time.  I have a feeling that folding and cutting the fabric will turn out to have been the most difficult part of this project.  It's a lot like sewing drapery panels, actually -- you read the directions and it's all straight cuts from selvage to selvage, blind hems...  Easy sewing, anyone can do this, right?  Until you are rolling out expensive silk drapery fabric on the hardwood floor in your foyer because that's the largest flat surface in your home, crawling around on your hands and knees as you try to cut fourteen perfectly square panels to exactly 148" each, with the pattern motif in exactly the same spot on each panel...  Been there, done that, not going there again any time soon.  A skilled drapery workroom (with gigantic worktables designed especially for handling these huge lengths of fabric) is worth every penny and then some.  My sewbabies would rather make quilts than drapery panels anyway!
By the way, Kari Me Away sells rolls of precut chiffon, as well as complete pettiskirt kits on her web site so you can start sewing right away.  If you'd like to make a pettiskirt for the little princess in your life but the thought of cutting all those chiffon strips makes you ill, the kits or chiffon rolls would be a huge timesaver.  I was tempted to go that route myself, but I wasn't excited by the color choices. 
Here you see the fruits of today's labors, a gazillion yards of nylon chiffon draped all over my treadmill (which I have actually been using lately, so I'm not going to leave the fabric draped there for very long!):

Next up: First thing in the morning, I have to drop off a client's fabric and work orders to my drapery workroom, and make a few business-related calls, but then I am headed back into my studio.  I am going to use my little vacuum gizmos to suck every last speck of lint out of my sewbaby, give it a couple drops of oil, and put on the ruffler foot, the correct needle (whichever one that turns out to be), and the perfect shade of turquoise thread.  I'll need to do some test ruffling on scraps of chiffon to get the ruffling adjusted to four times fullness, but then I should be able to gather the ruffles and attach them to the tiers all in one step, which will get me that much closer to the finish line (and that much closer to the next quilt!).

Wish me luck!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Check out Karen McTavish on Subversive Stitchers

Award-winning quilting diva, teacher, mother, and heavy metal musician, McTavish definitely gets an invite to my Imaginary Dinner Party for Interesting People. Take a look at McTavish's very funny guest blog post for Subversive Stitchers on how her passion for quilting keeps her sane.  It reminded me of how, when Lars was little, he'd notice when I was getting stressed out and frazzled and say, "Mommy, I think you need a Time Out in your sewing room."  If you're not a quilter, just substitute gardening/painting/golfing/baking, or whatever gets you recharged:

Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles: Extinguish burnout with quilting passion

Then, check out McTavish's drop-dead-gorgeous longarm quilting in her gallery at, where you will also see a better picture of the cool heirloom quilting feathers motif tattooed on her upper arm. There are two kinds of tattoos, after all: many people get "me-too" tattoos to fit into a group whose other members all have tattoos, but my favorite tattoos are those that make a personal statement and express the individuality of the person wearing them. I love how McTavish's tattoos as well as her quilting take a traditional art form and then give it a fresh, personal twist. I also love finding quilters who shatter the stereotype, because we're not all conservative old ladies with white buns on our heads.

Many thanks to another innovative and inspirational quilter, Wendy Sheppard, for turning me on to McTavish's work. Wendy's blog Ivory Spring has wonderful machine quilting tips and photography of her breathtaking quilts, and she's one of the nicest people I've never met! Pop over to see her at Have a happy weekend!