Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Got to Be Seen Green: Emerald Fabric Faves for 2013

I posted here recently about how much I love Pantone's Color of the Year for 2013, Emerald Green.  I really do want to challege myself to do something with emerald green in a quilt this year, so I browsed one of my favorite online quilt shops,, and this is what I came up with.  From top to bottom, left to right: "Bursting With Color Jeweled Abstract," Emerald, by Hoffman; "Color Weave," Dark Green, P & B Textiles; "Deco Delight Waterfall Abstract," Shamrock Green, Fabric Freedom; "Marble Faux Hand Dye," Emerald Green, Quilter's Choice; "Pacifica Paua," Bottle Green, New Zealand Import; "Solid Sateen," Emerald, Kaufman; "Floral Legacy Lavish Petals," Dark Green, Kona Bay; "Geometrix Stylized Stars," Bamboo, Fabric Freedom; "Floral Legacy Lavish Petals," Hunter Green, Kona Bay; "Marbled Blender," Emerald Green, Choice Fabrics.

I didn't order any of these yet because I have SEVERAL projects lined up that I need to finish (some not even started yet) before I can start playing with emerald green.  So, if you decide to add some of my emerald green fabric picks to your own stash, please leave some for me!

Monday, February 25, 2013

In Which Lars and Anders Meet Joshua Bell

Violinist Joshua Bell, photo by Eric Kabik
We drove two and a half hours yesterday to take Lars and Anders to violinist Joshua Bell's afternoon performance at The Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville, South Carolina.  Wow -- what a mesmerizing performance!  No orchestra, just Mr. Bell playing his 300-year-old Gibson ex-Huberman Stradivarius, accompanied by pianist Sam Haywood on a Steinway & Sons concert grand.  All four of us, including Skeptical Lars, were at the edge of our seats with wide eyes and silly grins on our faces throughout the entire performance. 

I didn't find out about this concert until a few weeks ago, so I wasn't able to get the sort of seats I usually snag -- we could see the performers' facial expressions and Anders could see how Mr. Bell was bowing and adjusting pitch mid-song with his fine tuners, but we could not read the sheet music or make out fingering.  Anders' favorite piece was the Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat, Op. 18 by Richard Strauss, and Lars's favorite (mine, too) was the Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94bis by Sergei Prokofiev -- until the final encore blew us all away.  You have got to hear Joshua Bell play the Ziguenerweisen Op. 20 "Gypsy Airs," written in 1878 by composer and violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate.  I couldn't find it on any of Mr. Bell's official recordings, but I did find this clandestine recording on YouTube:

Couldn't you just listen to that every day for a hundred years and never grow tired of it?

We couldn't believe how quickly the roughly two-hour performance flew by.  Afterwards, Mr. Bell was gracious enough to sign autographs in the lobby (although, unfortunately, no posing for photographs) and Lars and Anders both got to meet him personally -- Lars even shook his hand!  All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon, worth every penny AND well worth the five hour round trip in the car. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Meet Pantone's Color of the Year for 2013: #17-5641 Emerald Green!

Emerald Green Peacock Feathers
I know I'm a bit late with this announcement, but normally, when the color authorities at Pantone announce their Color of the Year, I don't get too excited.  Color forecasting is useful for designers, but only up to a point.  After all, redecorating an entire home in the hottest color of the year is a sure-fire way to date the interiors -- literally -- such that people say, "Ugh; her whole house is painted that hunter green and burgundy that everyone loved back in 1987!"  I generally advise my interior design clients to choose colors that speak to them personally rather than chasing the latest trend, with a few exceptions.  Since manufacturers around the globe worship faithfully at the feet of these Pantone folks, rushing to churn out products and stock inventories with the colors Pantone predicts will be popular, it's somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  At any rate, I know that the Pantone Color of the Year and the Pantone seasonal color palettes will be widely available for home goods and accessories across a wide range of price points, in just about every retailer.  Obviously clients who are willing to pay premiums for custom orders can get any color they want in just about anything, but for those on a budget, it really helps to work with colors that are easy to find everywhere from the most expensive showrooms right down to more affordable places like Restoration Hardware or even Target.
Emerald Green Bath, from Architectural Digest France

But for 2013, Pantone's color of the year is Emerald Green #17-5641, and I'm in LOVE!  Brighter and more vibrant than Hunter Green, but more sophisticated and subdued than Chartreuse, Emerald Green feels both fresh and timeless.

Emerald green looks modern and edgy mixed with black, white, and contemporary furniture shapes.

If the bold, dramatic impact of an all-green space is too much for you, experiment with Emerald Green as an accent color:

Emerald Green Draperies and Lampshades, photo from Brittany Stiles

Emerald Green Planters with Tangerine Front Door, from The French Tangerine
(Interestingly, Pantone's Color of the Year for 2012 was named Tangerine, but it was really more of a reddish orange than a true Tangerine).

One reason that Emerald Green appeals to me as more than just a passing trend is that the color is found in nature and will always be associated with the gemstones by the same name.  Consider this 1928 Cartier Indian Emerald necklace, once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post and now in the Smithsonian's collection.  This statement piece is just as breathtaking today as it was nearly a century ago.  Emeralds will never go out of style.

Post Emerald Necklace, Cartier c. 1928, Smithsonian Collection

Floor Tiles by Claesson Koivisto Rune

Have I gotten you excited about Emerald Green for 2013 yet?  I'm already looking around my own home for opportunities to introduce some deep, rich Emerald Green, and I think I'll challenge myself to incorporate some of this color into at least one of my quilts this year as well.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Snowy Day in Charlotte!

Lars Catching Snowflakes

We had a snowy day in Charlotte yesterday!  I'm always skeptical when the Carolilna weather forecasters issue dire Winter Weather Advisories -- they have cried wolf a few times too many.  Yesterday we saw a few snow flurries in the morning as Bernie was taking Lars to his Chinese tutor, but those few flakes were short-lived, melting instantly as they hit the ground, and the skies were clear when it was time for piano lessons on Saturday afternoon.  Late in the afternoon, the skies were WHITE and snow began falling heavily, dumping out of the skies as though we lived someplace that actually HAS winter.  Since we only get a snowfall like this once every couple of years, Lars and Anders raced outside to throw snowballs, build snowmen, and play in the snow until their cheeks were rosy and their toes were frozen.
Anders with his snowman, Bob
Charlotte shuts down completely just for this little bit of snow.  No one has snow tires, no one knows how to drive in ice and snow, and there aren't any snow plows or salt trucks clearing and de-icing the roads.  Our church even canceled Sunday school and worship services this morning because it's still very cold and the roads are icy. 
My favorite part?  I love the clean, bright white daylight reflected off the snow, pouring in through my windows.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Loving the Bernina Dual Feed for Pattern Matching!

Eleria fabric by Robert Allen, Graphite colorway, 24" repeat
I have a very full schedule today, but I had to share this.  When I set my heart on the Bernina 750QE sewing machine, I was aware that the 7 Series machines had a Dual Feed feature, but I thought it was just a silly gimmick, to be honest.  It wasn't a major selling point for me.  However, Bernina recommends engaging this little dual feed footsie for precise matching of plaids and stripes, or for "taming hard-to-manage fabrics." 

Yesterday I had to seam several widths of a Robert Allen drapery weight linen fabric with a weave just open enough to make it shifty and cantankerous and a large scale, high contrast pattern that would be very obvious and unattractive if it did not match carefully at the seams.  I decided this was a good opportunity to test drive the Dual Feed footsie.

Bernina introduced the Dual Feed feature on the 8 Series line and incorporated it into the new 7 Series machines as well.  It's an extra little "footsie" that comes down just behind your presser foot, like a little baby upper feed dog that tugs the top layer of fabric along each time the bottom feed dogs tug at the bottom layer of fabric, to help the layers feed evenly and to prevent shifting and misalignment of seams.  The Dual Feed only works with special "D" feet that have a groove cut out at the back to accommodate the Dual Feed footsie. 

Now, I should say that, if the seam in this fabric was destined to be in a visible location on the finished window treatment, like if it was a seam on the front of a flat cornice or a flat Roman shade, I would have carefully matched the pattern EXACTLY from the right side and hand-basted this seam before machine stitching it to ensure that it was as close to perfect as is humanly possible.  However, this seam has been plannned to fall inside of a box pleat, so it won't be directly visible -- it just needs to be a close enough match so that the pattern looks balanced from a distance when your eye sweeps from one width of fabric to the next.

So I used the eye of the brown birdie as a reference point, measured from the selvage on both sides of the fabric, and discovered that the pattern match occured 1 1/2" in on this particular fabric.  If this had been a solid fabric, I would have trimmed the selvages prior to stitching the seam, but again -- this linen weave was open and shifty enough that I wanted to keep that edge stable, and I woud be stitching far enough from the selvages that I wasn't concerned about puckering.  After sewing and opening out the seam to verify accuracy of the pattern match, I trimmed the selvages away with my pinking shears.

"Blind" Pattern Match with Dual Feed Function Engaged
I call this a "blind" pattern match, since I just matched up the pattern and pinned carefully at the cutting table, and then sewed the seam without basting it first from the right side.  I attached the metal seam guide bar to my presser foot at exactly 1 1/2" from the needle, put on my 1D presser foot, pulled down the Dual Feed footsie, and sewed this seam fairly quickly, only slowing down when I came to pins so I could remove them.  I am DELIGHTED with how well the pattern matches on this seam.  This is good enough for a drapery panel, in my opinion, let alone for a seam that is going to be hiding away in a valance box pleat where no one can appreciate it.  I almost want to put the seam smack dab in the MIDDLE of the window treatment and decorate it with beads or something, to make sure everyone notices how beautifully the pattern was matched!  ;-) 

Seriously, this is going to eliminate hand-basting in many of my projects where pattern matching is crucial.  I also felt that the dual feed gave my machine a little more muscle to pull the large, heavy fabric pieces through as they stitched.  Compared to my old sewing machine, I felt like the 750QE was doing a lot more of the work of handling the weight of that fabric bulk and I was just guiding it through the machine.  It also seemed to me that the dual feed was helping me get a straighter straight stitch on this 9 mm machine, more like that of a 5 mm or smaller sewing machine.

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE my new sewing machine?
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Monogram Magic: Playing with Embroidery Software

My New Monogram: Destined for my Sewing Machine Dust Covers
Since I had nothing better to do this afternoon (shh!), I've been playing in my Bernina embroidery software, and this is what I've come up with to decorate a dust cover for my new sewbaby.  Isn't that fun?  It's big; the design measures approximately 7 1/2" wide by 8 1/2" tall, and it has over 50,000 stitches.  It will be the first embroidery design that I stitch out with the Jumbo Hoop I bought for my B 750 QE sewbaby.

Original Bernina Design for the 830 LE
I didn't digitize this from scratch -- I started with a Bernina embroidery design for the 830 LE machine that you can download here for free, and then I deleted the "830," copied and pasted a few swirlies and deleted a few others, and then combined the Bernina design with an enlarged "R" monogram from Embroidery Arts' Gothic 10 collection, which you can purchase here.  I think this particular late nineteenth century leaf and vine monogram style is perfect, because the little satin-stitched leaves on the inside of the monogram look almost exactly like the little satin-stitched leaves in the upper right section of the Bernina design.  I wanted my new design to look just as seamless as the original, as though the monogram and the swirly background graphics had been digitized together.

Gothic 10 Monogram Collection from Embroidery Arts, here
I used my software to remove overlapping stitches, to change the flower at top right from black to red, and to resequence the order of stitching to my liking, and then I printed out a full-size template of the design that I'll be able to use for placement. 

I have some other sewing that I've committed to finish up by the end of this week, plus I've got the carpool tag mini quilt and Princess Petunia's Dresden Plate quilt vying for my attention, so I won't be starting this new project right away.  At least I've got my design modified and ready to stitch out.

Seriously, I have LOTS that I should be doing right now.  I can't believe it's after 3 o'clock already. 

Enjoy what's left of your weekend!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Reviews: Help With Machine Embroidery

Embroidery Machine Essentials: How to Stabilize, Hoop andStitch Decorative Designs, by Jeanine Twigg, is the best general overview that I've found for new machine embroiderers.  In Chapter 2: Embroidery Products and Chapter 3: The Embroidery Process, Twigg does a good job of introducing newbies to the mechanics of machine embroidery, including proper hooping technique, an overview of different types of stabilizers and their appropriate use for embroidery, and recommended placement of embroidery on common items such as shirts, towels, and linens.  The troubleshooting guide in Appendix I is useful as well, and Twigg does address the most challenging aspects of machine embroidery for most beginners, with clear explanations.  However, this book was published in 2001 and the entire first chapter covering equipment choices is hopelessly outdated.  Floppy disks and proprietary design cards have been dinosaurs for a long time, and because technology changes so quickly, it really should have been left out of the book entirely.  The projects featured in the last part of the book are, for the most part, unbelievably ugly and make you wonder why anyone would bother learning machine embroidery in the first place.  For that reason, the CD containing the embroidery designs featured in these projects is not much of a bonus, in my opinion.

I almost passed on Machine Embroidery on Difficult Materialsby Deborah Jones based on the title.  After all, I was having trouble embroidering on "ordinary" fabrics, so I had no desire to drive myself crazy trying to embroider on “difficult” fabrics like leather or vinyl.  However, this book turned out to be a far more valuable reference than I expected.  A better title would have been Successful Machine Embroidery on Every Fabric: Strategies for Hooping, Stabilizing, Editing and Troubleshooting from Professional Embroiderers.   Jones does an outstanding job of explaining how machine embroidery works with all fabrics, and how the fabric, stabilizers, needle, thread, and hooping method all affect the success or failure of the completed embroidery design.  What's more, Jones gives specific recommendations for altering embroidery designs within embroidery software in order to correct problems and achieve the best results for whatever material you're working with.  Not only does she recommend reducing/increasing your tension, stitch density or stitch length, but she also gives a range of specific values to try for each fabric, greatly reducing the process of trial-and-error.  For me, this is the most valuable information in the book.  I know HOW to use my embroidery software to change pull compensation, density of a fill stitch, stitch angles, etc. from my software mastery classes, but before reading this book I would look at an ugly sample stitch-out of a design and have no idea which values I should change to correct the problems.  The book also comes with a CD that contains multiple versions of designs that have been modified for different fabrics, so that you can open the designs in your embroidery software and compare the standard version to the adapted version. 

My copy of Machine Embroidery on Difficult Materials has been heavily highlighted, and it's my new go-to reference before starting any kind of embroidery project.  I recommend it wholeheartedly to novice to intermediate machine embroiderers. Readers who do not own embroidery software may feel discouraged that they are unable to try all of the author's suggestions, but many will decide to purchase embroidery software for the first time based on the software applications described in this book.
So, after conducting all of this research, I now know of several things I could have done differently to yield better results with my recent Too Cool for School Carpool Tag project
  1. First and foremost, I was not using my Mega Hoop properly.  The Mega Hoop has two screws on opposite corners, and I was only loosening and tightening the one in the top left corner -- the one closest to the "R" that was puckering most severely.  I should have loosened and tightened BOTH screws to achieve the correct tension for my fabric.
  2. The Mega Hoop also has four little wishbone-shaped clips that I had forgotten about and neglected to use.  These clips help to further secure the fabric in the oversize hoop, to minimize distortion and puckering.
  3. I was not hooping correctly.  I was just barely loosening the hoop tension enough so that I could hoop my fabric with a great deal of effort (stretching my fabric in the process, no doubt!) and then I was tightening that screw again before I attached the hoop to the machine.  I should have loosened the outer hoop more and adjusted the tension to where the fabric could be hooped snug and taut, then popped the outer hoop off and re-hooped so the tension would be evenly distributed across the hoop rather than concentrated at the screw point -- and no more touching the screw once the fabric was back in the hoop and ready for stitching!
  4. The final lesson I've learned is to stop being so stingy with stabilizers.  In general, you probably need more stabilizer for most projects than you think you do, and sometimes you need a combination of interfacing AND stabilizer to properly support embroidery stitches on a given fabric.  If I was doing the carpool tag over, I probably would have fused Polymesh cutaway stabilizer to my fabric as well as floating a layer of crisp tearaway stabilizer beneath the hoop.  Why?  Because it's very likely that the dense, closely-spaced stitches around my applique letters perforated my tearaway stabilizer so that it stopped providing support even before the design had finished stitching.  A lightweight cutaway like Polymesh would not have added bulk, but would have ensured integrity of the stabilizer throughout the stitching process. 
Armed with all of my new embroidery knowledge and resources, I will feel a lot more confident going into my next embroidery project!

Not Perfect, but Good Enough -- Moving On!
Considering everything that I did wrong, I think my carpool tag embroidery design came out pretty good, don't you?  I'm not going to start over a third time; I think I've learned what I set out to learn and this is "good enough" for this little project.  I'll attempt to quilt out the rippling that remains, but first I have to decide whether to add borders, and if so, how elaborate to make them.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rebecca's Tips for Sewing In-Seam Rope Cord Trims

If you're looking for a quick decorating fix for your home, you can't beat decorative throw pillows.  Since pillows use so little fabric, they are a great place to splurge on fancy fabrics and trimmings without breaking the bank, and they are not difficult to sew. 

In the Samuel & Sons ad above, all of the top-applied ball fringe trims have been hand-stitched to the pillow covers, and that is absolutely the way any high-end drapery workroom would apply trims with a decorative header.  The rope cord trims, on the other hand, have a twill tape or knitted lip attached to the cord so that they can be sewn successfully by machine.  I don't do a lot of this type of sewing anymore, but I made an exception recently in order to deliver a set of throw pillows to one of my favorite design clients before the holidays when my drapery workroom was backed up.  I know a lot of home sewers have difficulty achieving professional results with decorative rope cord trim, so I thought I'd share a few tips and tricks of the trade.

Kravet Frontier fabric, Habaneros Colorway
When I'm making a throw pillow, I cut two squares of fabric to the size of my pillow insert plus 1", to give me 1/2" seam allowances on all four sides.  I round off my corners slightly using a corner template from M'Fay Patterns.  Next, I like to overcast the raw edges of my pillow top and bottom pieces on my serger, especially when I'm working with a difficult fabric like this one from Kravet -- it has an intentionally wrinkled, puckered surface, and the little motifs that appear to be embroidered are actually a jacquard weave, leaving long floating strands of thread all over the back side of the fabric.  Once the edges were overcast on the serger, this fabric was totally well behaved throughout the rest of the project.

Ruffled Rouche lip cord from Robert Allen
When you're selecting your decorative rope cord, you can save yourself a lot of headaches by avoiding those that are very stiff and/or large diameter.  Why?  Think about it.  You're going to use a zipper foot to try to sew as close to your cord as possible.  If your cord is a rigid 5/8" diameter cylinder and you're sewing it against the flat bed of your sewing machine, there is no way you can get your sewing machine needle to stitch right up against the cord because the cord rolls inward onto the lip in order to lie flat.  With that kind of cord, I just machine stitch as close as I can and then supplement with hand stitching from the right side (after turning the pillow right side out) to ensure the cord is hidden.  With the Ruffled Rouche cord trim I was using for this project, I was able to push it and smoosh it out of the way sufficiently that no additional hand sewing was necessary.

Now, 1/2" seam allowances are standard for home dec sewing, but the header on my rope cord was a lot narrower than 1/2". If I just lined up the cord lip with the edge of my pillow top, my seam allowance would be too small and my pillow cover would finish too large.  I attached the seam guage to my zipper foot, set at 1/2" from the needle, and used that as a guide for my pillow fabric.  Then I just smashed the rope cord trim up against the left side of my zipper foot as tightly as I could as I stitched the trim to the pillow front.  Oh, and I did use a longer stitch length for this, to reduce puckering. 

Cord Ends Unraveled and Woven Together, Ready for Stitching
I should also mention that, when I start sewing on a rope cord, I try to stop and start in an inconspicuous place, on the bottom of the pillow between the corner and the start of the zipper.  I leave the first few inches of trim loose as I begin stitching, and when I get all the way around the pillow I leave a few inches of trim loose to overlap the starting point.  I carefully unravel the trim at both ends and weave the two ends together (this is easier with some trims than with others), pulling the yarn tails into the seam allowances and flattening them as much as possible.  Then I simply stitch across the yarn tails to secure the cord join.
Stitching Across the Yarn Tails to Join the Cord Ends

After Securing the Joined Ends, Trim the Yarn Tails Even with the Seam Allowance
Ta da!  When this pillow was finished, it was impossible to tell where the cord join was.

A few more tips: After I sew the cording to the pillow top, I insert my invisible zipper and then I sew all the way around to secure the pillow front to the pillow back, right sides together.  Then I flip the pillow over and sew around the perimeter again from the opposite side -- this helps get even closer to the cord.

Unfortunately, I was rushing to get these pillows delivered to my client and I forgot to take pictures of the finished pillows once they were stuffed.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

We've Got the Plates, We've Got the Princess, and Now We've Got a Plan!

Red Chevron Background Fabric for Dresden Plates!
Remember the Dresden Plates I made for the Machine Embroidery Blog Hop a few months ago?  I made eight identical Dresden plates with machine embroidered applique centers for the blog hop, with absolutely no idea what I would ever do with them.  I took one to the Bernina dealer near my home (they have a CORNER of quilting fabric, but it's a sew and vac type shop, so not much selection) and came home with several yards of boring, textured off-white fabric that the ladies at the shop had convinced me would look best with my Dresden Plates. 
Boring, Depressing Background Fabric Suggested By Shop Ladies

I unfolded the yucky off-white stuff when I got home, laid a couple of Dresden plates on top, and sighed.  And pouted.  And completely lost interest, and put the Dresden plates away where I wouldn't have to look at them anymore.

Until my four-year-old niece, Princess Petunia (her parents think her name is Sarah), came to visit me last week, bringing her (literally!) loved-to-pieces baby quilt with her.  The batting is actually exposed through the disintegrated fabric of the quilt top over at least 25% of the quilt.  You might think this would upset me, since I made the quilt for her when she was born, but nothing could be further from the truth!  I'm only sad if I put hours into making a quilt for someone and then I find out they put it away in a closet where no one ever sees it or snuggles up in it.  Princess Petunia has shown herself worthy of new "covers," and since her birthday is coming up in March, I invited her to dig through my stash and pick out some fabrics.

Princess Picked the Asian Floral Fabric (Between the Dresden Plate and the Solid Yellow)
The next day, I realized that the multicolored Asian floral fabric she swooned over in my stash goes beautifully with my Dresden Plates -- score!  The Princess dragged out LOTS of bright, flowered fabrics and had difficulty choosing a favorite, so I think she'll really like the mix of fabrics in my plates -- but NOT with that drab background fabric.  So I journeyed to another Bernina dealer, one that is also a large, beautiful quilt fabric shop, with Anders in tow and an open mind about what the background fabric should be.  I looked at dozens of fabric possibilities before I settled on the vibrant, tone-on-tone red chevron.  I'll use a narrow sashing in the black and white stripe fabric to separate the blocks (and eliminate the fuss of trying to match the chevron pattern at the seams) and then I'll do a wide pieced border in leftover scraps from the Dresden Plates as well as that purply Asian floral that she picked out.  I chose a lavender Minkee backing fabric with white polka dots, because her original "covers" had Minkee backing and we need the new quilt to have the same snuggle power as the old one.  Satin binding will be mandatory, as well.

Isn't it amazing how much livelier and more vibrant that Dresden plate looks against the red chevron instead of the off-white fabric?  I'm getting a spunky, Mackenzie Childs kind of vibe.  I think it will be perfect for her.
Princess Petunia Creates New Chess Rules While My Sister Grins Sweetly in the Background

Here you see our sassy and spirited Princess Petunia herself, telling Grammy that she should get ALL the horses -- not just the white ones -- because she really likes horses.  Grammy said she wouldn't play chess with the Princess unless she got to start with ALL of the black pieces, because those were the rules.  Our indignant Sarah retorted, "But Grammy, I had them first!  And I said PLEASE!!"  Who could argue with irrefutable preschool logic like that?  I wish I had gotten a picture of Anders' face when she said that, because he could not have looked more horrified and shocked if a tree had suddenly sprouted from his cousin's head.  Where was the chess master when you needed him?!  :-)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Studio Makeover Update: Warehouse Pendant Installed, Birdie Clock On the Way!

I must begin by telling you how unbelievably ticked off I am at Blogger right now.  Not only has it become a glorious PITA to upload photos to my blog recently, but yesterday I spent a good hour working on this post only to have it VANISH without a trace before I could publish it.  Attention, Blogger -- you're on probation!  There are other blog platforms out there, and I will flirt with other options if you don't get your kinks worked out soon!

Pendant Task Lighting Installed over Cutting Table
Okay.  So the 20" Ivanhoe Sky Chief pendant in Cherry Red from Barn Light Electric has now been installed over my cutting table, and I'm LOVING it.  Similarly styled fixtures are available from Restoration Hardware, Rejuvenation Hardware, and other trendy sources -- for a lot MORE money -- but what I love most about the Barn Light Electric fixture is that it takes up to a 200 watt bulb.  The pricier look-alikes typically take only a single 60 watt bulb, which is totally inadequate for task lighting at a cutting table.  I only have a 150 watt bulb in the pendant now because that's all I had in the house, but already I'm loving it.  I should also mention that we've installed the pendant so that it's centered over my table, with the bottom edge of the shade 24" above the table surface.  That puts the bottom of the shade roughly at eye level for me, so I have very concentrated task lighting on my work surface but I don't have the glare of a bare bulb shining in my eye.  The cherry red pendant shade is a bit darker than the red painted drawer base and sewing cabinet, but I can easily repaint them darker later.

Bernie sits in the folding chair where he wants his "real" chair to be
Right now, I'm only partially moved back into the space so I can "test-drive" my setup (and because I was DYING to start playing with the new Bernina 750 QE sewing machine that I got for Christmas).  I am currently taking up only about half the room for my studio, which is good because it leaves room for that seating area and flat screen TV that I wanted to add.  Now, before you start congratulating me on how clean and open my sewing studio is, I should confess that it only looks so good because 75% of my stuff is still piled in my master bedroom while I figure out where to put everything.  I counted FORTY-FOUR drapery and upholstery remnants on bolts, most of them less than a full yard, in addition to all of the folded scraps, cases of threads and notions, etc.  I sense a purge coming on...  I can't bear to clutter my room up again.

Actually, I'm finding storage to be a real challenge.  Despite the relatively large room with a vaulted ceiling, that ceiling is steeply sloped down to about 55" from the floor on two walls.  Of the two remaining "tall" walls, one of them is broken up with windows and I desperately need a design wall on the other wall because that's the only place it could possibly go and I've had it with laying out quilt blocks on the foyer floor and then running upstairs so I can look down from above and judge the layout.  I think we're going to enlarge both the cutting table and the sewing cabinet, so it can accommodate a serger and/or smaller secondary sewing machine work station, and we'll have to design as much creative storage into those two pieces as we possibly can.  Still working on that.

Meanwhile, I did find a cute birdie clock that I ordered for my studio the other day.  Isn't it adorable?  The finish will complement my oil rubbed bronze spooky chandelier and my sparkly cabinet knobs, and I had to have it because of the bird.  The clock is a VERY important feature of my studio, since it will help me remember to pick my kids up from school on time!

We haven't accomplished much in the studio lately because Bernie was away on business for a whole week and then my sister's family was visiting with my niece and nephew the following week.  Hopefully we'll make some headway on the storage issue next week.