18 May 2015

first backpack

Toddler Backpack, front view
Toddler Backpack, back view

I finished E.'s backpack this morning. It turned out well, and she was very excited about having a new bag to hide things in. It was a good project for me to do, since I've never made anything like this before.

The pattern is Made by Rae's Toddler Backpack. The pattern itself is great; the instructions were clear and they come with directions for enlarging the pattern and for adding a lining. I kept it the toddler size, since E.'s on the small side anyway. I may need to shorten the nylon straps a bit more; otherwise she'll be dragging the ends of them on the floor.

I used a flowered canvas that got passed on to me when a friend was de-stashing. I'd originally though to use it as a child-size tablecloth for E. when she was older, but decided it would work well for this. Most of the lining fabric, the base, and the shoulder straps were made of a green fabric that also came from someone else. I think it's mostly cotton. The base for the lining, since I was out of green fabric by then, was made of a yellow cotton.

I chose to go with a lining rather than using bias binding on the inside seams. I didn't feel like doing bias binding, and wanted the added stability of a lining. I think it probably took just as much time as it would have to do all the bias binding.

Toddler Backpack, inside view
I used a yellow-green piping for most of the trim, and yellow nylon straps for the adjustable straps. I also used a light purple piping to trim the front pocket (because I only bought one packet of yellow-green piping and then didn't have enough for the pocket. The purple piping was leftover from another project), which was my own addition. I cut out an additional piece of canvas using the front pattern piece as a guide, just folded over so the pocket would be the height I wanted. I added the piping to the pocket, topstitched it, then layered it on top of the front and added the edge piping and proceeded as the pattern instructed.

Toddler Backpack, side view
The zipper is a white plastic one with a metal toggle that will be easy for E. to pull. I had to shorten it, but that's not really a difficult modification to make. Sewing the lining to the zipper panel was a little messy. I didn't quite manage to line it up with the stitching from earlier, so it doesn't look perfect, but the lining won't come out easily, which is the important thing.

If I do another one of these, I'll probably do the front pocket again, and maybe add some inside pockets to lining as well. I'm considering getting a piping foot. I ended up using my zipper foot to apply the piping and while it worked, it was hard to get it close enough to the cording. I used a denim (heavy-weight) needle, and one backpack plus a lot of piping was enough for the tip to start getting dull by the end.

The next sewing project is a t-shirt for me. Pictures to come!

15 May 2015

book titles, sewing, and knitting

Summer shorts for the tiny one
I keep reminding myself to write a blog post, and then I forget. Sorry. I also forget about Twitter most of the time, too. I've been spending more time reading than writing lately, and I need to flip that around for a bit. There's a short story I need to finish and submit by the end of the month, and the planned release date for book 2, now tentatively called Ley Lines, is October 31, 2015. A couple of book blogger reviews for Comrades We are on their way, but I have been told that they have backlogs to get through first, so I don`t yet have specifics as to when the reviews will be available. When they are, I will link them.

I've made some time for sewing lately, the result being the picture above. There's a pair of green ones in the same pattern that are mostly done (hemming and elastic and possible applique are the only bits left). The other in-progress sewing project is a backpack for E. from Made by Rae's pattern. There'll be a full post for that one when it's finished. After that, I have a t-shirt for me that needs to be cut out and sewn up.

And I have a shawl-in-progress that`s nearly finished. It`s very pretty, and I want to complete it so I can finally give it to its intended recipient. Also so I can take pictures. It doesn`t exactly look like much on the needles. Then it will be time to cast on some socks. The many pairs I knit a few years back are starting to wear out, so the sock drawer needs replenishing. The sock yarn stash needs to decrease, too, because it composes most of my stash right now. It might be nice to use some of it up.

So, that`s all for now. My next post will probably be about E.`s new backpack.

28 April 2015

falling for non-fiction

When I was a child, non-fiction didn't appeal to me very much. The point of reading (other than learning things for school) seemed to be reading stories. If it wasn't narrative, I wasn't particularly interested, unless it was something I needed or wanted to learn about. History sometimes worked for me, since most history has some sense of narrative. But I had a complete lack of interest in most forms of non-fiction.

Then I got older. My interests expanded. Suddenly, non-fiction didn't seem so bad. I was a teenager when a book my mother had bought on a whim, one about teenage girls and bullying, sparked my interest. I started to read. I had never been bullied, but I was a teenage girl, and I was suddenly curious. I don't remember the name of the book now (just that it wasn't Queen Bees and Wannabees, which I read a decade later). Whichever book it was, that was the one that made me realize that non-fiction was not boring, so I am grateful to whoever wrote it.

Today, the non-fiction section is one of the first places I go when I get to the library. I'm more likely to check out a non-fiction book than a fiction one lately. My love of narrative remains--I read a lot of memoirs and a lot of history--but I don't limit myself to fiction when I read. It's been a gradual process, so that I can't really pinpoint when non-fiction became my first destination at the library, but it's led me to a lot of interesting reads.

I haven't abandoned fiction; I still love narrative and there is something ineffable about a well-written novel that I rarely run across in most non-fiction, but non-fiction opens up worlds of words and thoughts that don't always make into fiction (or at least into the fiction I end up reading). 

20 April 2015


E.'s new shirt (please do not pin or re-post)
So, this season's theme in Kid's Clothes Week is "wild things." I started today off fairly strong with a t-shirt (not as elaborate as some of my fellow participants, but I made something, it's finished, ta-dah!), and I added a Pokemon applique to it. It fits the theme ("you have found a wild Pikachu") and E. likes Pokemon (specifically, she likes the Indigo League theme song).

She wanted to wear the shirt as soon as she saw the applique, before I'd managed to attach it to the shirt. I'll call that a success.

I used the Tiny Tumble Tee pattern, the baby version of the Tumble Tee from Imagine Gnats. The shirt's a long one, since it can double as a a dress, and E. is skinny, so she hasn't yet outgrown the tiny version. The two shirts I made her about a year ago from the same pattern still fit. The neckline's still a little gappy, but I didn't feel like experimenting with neck binding today. It fits over her head and stays on, and it's comfortable.

I used a chunk of blue jersey knit that came from a friend's destash. I had to cut the back of the shirt in two pieces and seam it together because I couldn't convince it to work any other way. Leftovers can be awkward shapes. The Pokemon fabric came from the same friend. I found the only piece on there with a whole Pikachu, ironed it onto some interfacing, and then ironed the whole thing to the shirt with some Stitch-Witchery. Then I tried out the applique stitch on my sewing machine. It appears to have worked, but of course, the proof's in the washing (not the pudding). If it stays on after a few trips through the washer, I think it will do.

I'm not sure what's on the docket for Kid's Clothes Week tomorrow. Probably another Pokemon applique of some sort, since I cut out about half a dozen other Pokemon to use. Perhaps a pair of shorts for the warm weather. We shall see.

14 April 2015

Chaotic Neutral, at best

Well, we survived the six hour (each way) drive to visit my family for my grandmother's memorial with a toddler. Our secret? Sticking one of us in the back with the toddler so she wouldn't scream the whole way, and a couple of Terry Pratchett audiobooks so we adults wouldn't feel like screaming the entire way. We didn't do that last time we headed south and E. ended up screaming for the last two hours on our trip to Seattle (her way of saying Happy Thanksgiving, perhaps?).

It was a strange visit. Visits to Portland are typically filled with visits to Powell's; a wander through Saturday market to admire all the breakable pretty things; a journey to my favourite tea shop, the Tao of Tea; a trip to one of the McMenamin's movie theaters if they have anything good playing; spending time with family and friends that we don't see very often; and usually a pilgrimage to Mill End (as much as I love Fabricana, Mill End was where I first started fabric shopping on my own and holds a special place in my heart). Next Christmas we plan to take E. to the Oregon Zoo. J. and I tend to go for walks in downtown or around Hawthorne and play Hipster Bingo (yes, it's probably rude, but there are so many people with spectacular beards and glasses).

This journey was different. Oh, we made it to Bob's Red Mill and Dave's Killer Bread, since my parents live nearby, and I stocked up on a few alternative flours (more on that later, once the batter for the injera finishes fermenting), but most of the time wasn't about having fun playing tourist in the city where I grew up. My youngest brother was off at university most of the two weekdays we were there, though he was around on the weekend days; my oldest younger brother was busy working and we only saw him briefly a couple of times; and my middle younger brother was only able to come for the memorial service and had to run back up to Seattle for work before the reception had ended.

J. and I usually go to my grandparents' house for dinner one of the nights we're visiting. Last time we brought a tiny four-month-old E. over to their house. This time, my grandfather came over several times, and it was strange to see him without my grandmother, because they are always together. Just not anymore.

As it became more real to me, I started to cry more. I cried through most of the service. I kept crying at the reception because it felt like all I had to do was turn around and she would be there, except she wasn't. I muddled my way through an anxiety attack that night, one that kept me up well past midnight, and then stumbled through another one at my parents' church the next morning.

I was pulled together enough to drive part of the way home and not succumb to anxiety about driving, and I feel on a slightly more even keel now that I'm a bit removed, but as always, it's taking a few days to settle back into routine here at home. Everything seems a bit off, and I think most of that is related to the grieving process, however long it's going to take. I'm back to feeling a bit sad, a bit flat, and unsure what to do about that.

While we aren't exactly horrendously busy, life does feel strangely chaotic. I suppose it will sort itself out, but in the meantime, I'm finding ways to cope with the weirdness.

06 April 2015

Easter Monday

Daphne Flowers
I took a picture of one of the daphne bushes over in of the public parks because my grandparents have a daphne bush in their yard. I've always loved the heady scent of the flowers, and remember my grandmother letting me squish some of the blossoms up in a cup with water in an attempt to make perfume (no, it didn't work).

We made it through Holy Week and Easter Sunday. The week has a more bittersweet twinge for me than it usually does. I managed to complete my Lenten task. This year I chose to get the book out during Lent rather than giving something up (though the task of sending it out into the world where people can read and critique it has an element of letting go). But my mind was less on my life than on my grandmother's this Lenten season.

I wasn't sure if I would write much about the grieving process here on the blog, but it has occurred to me that, as a representation of grief, mine doesn't look like I expected it would. The deep sadness passed after the first week, for the moment, and for now, I am reconciled. But I do find myself frequently dwelling on my grandmother, on who she was, who I knew her to be, and how she affected the people around her. The memorial service is this weekend, and I will be faced, for the first real time, with her absence. I feel it when I talk with my grandfather, on the phone or on skype, but it's still not entirely real.

Bleeding Heart
This evening, I spent some time working on a dress for my daughter to wear to the service on Saturday. I think Grandma would have liked that. She loved that at least one of her granddaughters had continued to sew after she spent all the time teaching us when we were kids. It seems fitting to sew something for E. for this occasion.

In the spirit of thinking about what my grandmother would have appreciated, I found myself buying makeup to wear, and deliberating about the sort of nail polish I should use (not black, I think). I've been a nail biter most of my life, and my mother tried to use the promise of nail polish as a bribe to get me to stop. Grandma just went ahead and did my nails - irritating my mother but delighting me.

Memories like that are both joyful and tinged with sorrow right now. It's a strange feeling. I don't know if they will always feel like this, or if the feelings will someday be all joy. I think I will always miss her, though, so I don't think the sadness is going to leave anytime soon.

31 March 2015

flying sounds like a good idea

My first rating on Goodreads sent me spiraling around the house, wishing I could take off like Annabel in No Flying in the House. There may also have been some profanity involved, of the excited disbelief variety. The first rating was 5 stars. No reviews yet, but now I'm less nervous about what reviewers have to say.

I ran into a guy who had been in one of the classes I TAed back in grad school on the weekend. It's been a few years, but I know his wife slightly because she and I both go to the same mum's group. Anyway, he asked me what I'd been up to, and, for the first time, I got to say, "I wrote a book," in response to the question of what I've been doing with myself. Weird yet exhilarating.

The week's been not too busy so far, but everything takes off on Thursday. I love Holy Week, but it's going to be just a wee bit exhausting. At least I have the lamb shoulder I bought today to look forward to, for our Easter dinner (I have not been a spectacular semi-vegetarian lately, but I'm sure that I'll snap back after our trip, and at least tomorrow's dinner will be vegan).