Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Portable Projects*

Aah. The Portable Project. There's a lot of talk about that now, along with great books to read while sitting on the beach, hanging around for the endlessly delayed flight or on a sidetrack while waiting for a far more important freight train to pass by (this is for American train passengers idled on an Amtrak train).

Consequently, the project becomes hugely important. It's something to do after you're bored watching movies on the laptop, when it suddenly it becomes urgent to do something challenging with the brain. If you've get a well-thumbed paperback, you're set in the grey-cell activity department, and it is actually somewhat tacticle since you've got to turn those wrapping-paper thin pages. But I like digging into making something, a show-and-tell-for the road, a task that you can see progressing as you move along your journey, and hopefully complete before your adventure is finished.

Contrary to popular opinion, knitting and crochet aren't the only projects that you can easily pop into a handbag. Here are a couple of other handiwork entreprises that travel nicely like a well-covered homemade blueberry pie:
1. Cutwork. It could be paper or fabric. If you're not obsessed with perfection and you can handle carrying a little pair of scissors (particularly on airplanes, and I've done this, so it's all right at security checkpoints), this is a great way to exercise your hands and just play. For me, I've been hacking iron-on copper facing into tiny, big, and huge circles. These past two days, I've just sat there with no music, cutting and cutting, little bits of copper paper floating onto my bedspread, floating onto the wood floor. I even got some assistant from an admirer, who with Depression-era thriftiness, folded the paper in half, cut two circles at a time, sparing not one little bit of scrap. I've got lots of circles for my blue knit fabric. One more thought: you could make lots of cut-out for later use. I did that for a hatblock and this folding screen. What's even better, you can enlist fellow passengers that way your hands don't get fatigued.
2. Embroidery. This is excellent if you got your sewing on a hooping, and all your floss and needles arranged on a card. It's fantastic because you can set it on your lap, doze off, and pick it up hours later and know exactly where you are, which is not the case with knitting or crochet, particularly when you're following a pattern. Then you must reread the instructions at least twice to make sure you're on track (an appropriate wisecrack when you're traveling by rail, which I just might do tomorrow morning.) Another on-the-road worthy project is smocking, which is a great, slow way to add detail to a garment. Right now, I'm keen to cut out a square of small print red-and-white gingham, do 10 minutes of chicken-scratch embroidery across each. Then I'll have two pockets to machine stitch to a nice, big full, knee-length 1950s gingham skirt, which I'll make nice and fluffy with a crinoline.
3. Scrapbooking. I'm not sure you could bring a huge project with you, but I'd bring a lightweight blank pocketed binder, lots of stickers, then stick various bits of memorabilia in a sleeve as you park at various destinations. (Hopefully you will not stop on a cloud mid-journey on a plane. There are no postcards there.) Of course, to make it really meaningful you'd need to scribble little notes throughout, comments like: "We were stuck in the airport for three hours but dad took us to McDonald's" or even "We waited out a tornado in this rest area. It was really scary when the wind blew knocked over a garbage can, but we're okay."
4. Letter-writing. I think this is absolutely the best. It's basically like journal-writing, but instead of keeping each day's escapades and thoughts to yourself, you share it with family and friends. You'd need to make sure you have a pad of paper, pen, envelopes, stamps, and most importantly, your address book. Write everything that happens, preceded with "Dear >>>" to put it all in perspective. When you're finished with the missive, seal, stamp and drop it in the nearest mail box. Then you can relive your experiences weeks later when your friends call to thank you for your note. A lengthy letter is preferable than a postcard, which is short, somewhat sweet and sometimes, unreadable.
If all is fails, you can simply take a nap, and catch up on your sleep. Sugary dreams.
* The remnant above is not a part of a Portable Project right now. It's the by-product of my Patternreview tour at Vogue Fabrics last week. Yes, I got 10 percent off of $5.99 for 1 1/2 yards of this 54-inch swatch of stretch lace! I scanned the peachy fabric against a piece of black paper...

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