Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick and Dirty: Free Fabric Swap, TODAY

No pics at the moment. If you want to unload fabric, notions, zippers, patterns, (but no remnants or pets), please feel free to come to the Rogers Park Public Library, second floor at 6 p.m. See previous entries for details.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Listen Ladies: New Free Fabric Swap, Tuesday, June 30

It's the same deal as last time. For those of you not there during the debut, read below for the lowdown. Feel free to spread the word wide and far on the Internet, Twitter from the moutains, telegraph from the local Western Union. You get the idea. I'll do a Craigslist post.

Time: 6-8:30 p.m.

Date: Tuesday, June 30

Location: Rogers Park Public Library
6907 N. Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626
2nd floor, south room

What?: Fabric Swap

What's a Fabric Swap?: We'll be exchanging fabric, notions, patterns using play money, probably Monopoly dollars. During the set-up, we'll have a little show and tell. Wear your favorite sew garment for prizes.

Anything Else I should Know?: Since this is a swap, no money/check can be exchanged on the premises. This is important. Anybody caught paying real U.S. dollars for items in the swap will be lashed with a tape measure or forced to count pattern pieces.

What can I bring?: Any type of fabric that's at least 1 yard long, 45 inches wide (I don't want to deal with remnants), notions, patterns are acceptable.

How can I help?: Thanks for asking. Here are some specific jobs we need:

1. Several cashiers' to help establish a 'value' to the fabric and pass out Monopoly money to 'sellers'
2. Several organizers to put fabric on various tables tagged according to fabric type (silk, cotton, polyester, knits, etc.).
3. A barker to call out lottery numbers so 'shoppers' can orderly browse items in the swap.
4. Someone to organize show and tell part of the swap.
5. Foodie to round up snacks for hungry shoppers. "Shoppers" are encouraged to bring chips, beverages, paper plates, and napkins.
5. A driver with enough room in the car to cart leftover unwanted fabric to local Salvation Army.

Where can I park if I drive? What about public transportation?: There's a parking lot behind the library. Call for details. You can easily get to the Rogers Park Public Library on the no. 22 bus. It's also two blocks west of the Morse Red line stop, a block east of the Rogers Park stop on the Union Pacific North Metra line. For those of you with horses, there is no place to park your animal. Sorry.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Can We Just Skip The Drop Spindle and Get to the Spinning Wheel Already?

Yes, I'm completely willing to skip the drop spindle and just get to the spinning wheel now. The drop spindle is just too slow for my taste. Why ride rickshaw when you can really pick up the pace in a sportscar? When I see people making yarn this way, I just see wanna-be spinners dropping a spinning top on the floor over and over. Makes me think of novices with yo-yos, and how they continually let the discs graze the ground. Over and over. Dropping anything to floor repetitively gets on my nerves. My brothers used to dribble a basketball in the house hardwood floors while we were growing up. I'd just say, "Can you please stop????" And they'd continue on annoying me until I grabbed away the ball away.

Anyhow, let me back up. I'm taking a beginning weaving class at the Chicago Park District. I'd don't really care about the looms, I just want to learn how to make my own yarn. I mentioned my quest to a friend, she suggested I take an $18 10-week class, which started this past Saturday. The teacher would probably let me spin to my heart's contentment, she said.

So I signed up last minute with my wad of cash. Hustled my bustle to get to the 9:30 a.m. class. Perspired profusely on the way wearing my not so comfortable Born sandals. Breathlessly made it up the stairs to the classroom, which was locked. Not a soul in sight, unless you count the bodies in a nearby room stretching their limbs in a yoga class overlooking Lake Michigan.

Happily, a Park District staffer unlocked the room. I entered what looks like the Adult Woman's playroom. Loom after loom after loom, all 20 or so covered with cotton sheets, they all looked like player pianos covered in white. The sheets, you know means "Hands Off!" in adultspeak.

And there was this device, which I think is a carding machine. Crank crank crank! Now I did some carding as a kid at Pioneer Day at Crow Island school. By hand, it gets old fast. But to build muscle tone pumping the wheel on this thing? Could be fun. Could be addictive. Could call for some Guinness beforehand, off-site at a local lounge.

I'm not precisely sure what this textile in progress is, but it wasn't covered up with a sheet, but it looks like a bargello print in progress. The Missoni people in Italy, who are obsessed with zig-zag motifs, would love this, and I do too. Must find out more.

The roving reserves, a splendid system to store raw fiber. Old oatmeal containers, stacked. How do they stay shoulder to shoulder? I'm completely curious.

Here's a close-up of the roving stored, in case you're curious.
Here are I am waiting Teach (name's apparently Linda), who never arrived. For about 10 minutes, I was ready to storm the Park District Office and demand my money back. Instead, I waited for a half hour. I figured if I had my knitting and I could be patient, impatiently working my hands, which must be busy anytime I'm awake. Boy, was it hot up there, I didn't turn on the fan, but I could have. I was afraid of dust flying everywhere, and sneezes by the truckload. So I sweated it out in more ways than one. Finally, another student, Lori, arrived. She apparently took a parked bicycled near the door as a sign that Teach was here. So well-hidden among the looms, that was the one contraption I didn't see. Finally, I go downstairs to the office desk to find out Linda won't be in today. At least, the class is still on for next week.
Class over early, I headed over to Vogue Fabrics in Evanston where a big annual Custer's Last Stand festival. Here are I am testing out the latest Viking Designer sewing machine. The free project of the day was making an Ugly Doll with felt. Gosh, this machine knows when you're going to turn. It would make itty-bitty adjustments if you even thought about lurching left or running right. Talk about Big Brother at the presser foot. I just looked for an overhead camera watching my every move. There was none. Spooky.
Here I am posing with my Ugly Doll, with a girl who made her Ugly doll in a plush purple. so pretty. I think my Ugly Doll will going with tonight to Vogue for free sewing demo tonight.
Anyhow, I'm ready for next week's spinning adventure. Wish me luck in talking Linda into letting me skip the drop spindle.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Appealing Appliques ($2 each!) and Simplicity 2584

I finally got back on track with my knitting project which is excellent because I feel another long bus trip coming on. Yes, my joints are telling that we are going somewhere soon somehow with a project too. I frequently tell myself I need the intellectual break of reading, but my creative side won't hear of it. Not even listen for a mere moment! Even though there are three library books at my disposal. Three!

I wish I were sewing though, which is a weird whim especially since I have a sewing machine within arm's length. I just need to turn it on. No, I want to be among people, purchases, and plum piping (yes, there's cording right outside the classroom door at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston.).

Anyhow, next time my fingers, the pedal and presser foot and I meet, I'd like to consider the above pattern. The pattern illustration had me on the fence, but this rendition has me thinking, "Yowza. I must make this!" and cast my thoughts back to the above applique at Vogue Fabrics (Evanston), snipped carefully in the middle. Same silhouette at the neckline facing in the pattern, by far easier to stitch, I'd imagine. I'd do mine on linen just as CostumeDivasDirtyLaundry did in her version. I'd make mine graze the knees so I wear to other places besides the beach....What do you think?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dear. C, Another Letter

Dear C. -

Yesterday was just the worst. Here I was attempting to solve problems between us, and I had to deal with terrible traffic nearly everywhere. Cars, cars, cars, trying to go Andersonville Midsommarfest, Ribfest, Bluesfest and the Cubs Game. We have a terrific transit system here and it seemed like not enough locals were using it if the back-ups on the Kennedy were any indication.

I just cannot tell you how frustrated I am with you. It's not you personally, in a sense. Maybe it's just the relationship. I'm trying to figure out where I fit in. Each time I try a new approach, I'm stymied big-time. Each time I cry, "Time out!," I find myself obsessing, revisiting the issues, replaying conversations and advice over and over like a broken piece of vinyl.

This is what I've concluded: I just don't trust you. That's why I haven't accepted your Facebook friend request. I'm suspicious. I wonder: will you twist on me again when I'm not looking? Really. I haven't had this problem in crochet, and I'm nearly an expert with not one but two shell-stitch crochet skirts under my macrame belt (one doesn't fit remotely, but I digress). I don't have trouble with twisted stitches in sewing either, but with that hobby I'm not in the least bit concerned with making and connecting a circle of stitches.

So, you've twisted on me twice, yes twice. I'm beginning to wonder: is my Ribs lace tank top meant to be? This time around, I didn't let the twist ramble for two-three inches like I did the first time. Yesterday I got to the fifth row and said: "Aunt! (not Uncle)!"

I really tried hard not to let your bad behavior get to me. I went to Arcadia Knitting at noon yesterday. Instead of completely ripping back tank top attempt no. 1, I did a cable cast-on for all 220 stitches on the other end of the skein (smart!). Now here was where I let you take advantage of me: I casted on, knit row no. 1, and then I hitched my stitches to get onto the no. 22 bus to the Little Brothers of the Elderly shindig.

Major mistake. I should have stuck around the yarn shop little longer, at least until row no. 5, or at least I could safely say twisting isn't likely to happen now. But my stomaching was growling, and so I took off...to merrily knit and purl when the bus dodged last winter's potholes.

C., I only discovered your deception late last night, while I was working on the first lace section in what has to be the worst pre-sleep activity: a complicated knit row, fraught with peril with every yarn-over. I mean I should have been preoccupied with counting sheep, not stitching and sliding on row markers. This kind of nocturnal neurosis only leads to tossing and turning at 2 a.m.

However, I am happy to report I slept well and I got my full eight hours' of shut-eye (that goes with telling you to shut up). You didn't haunt my dreams. Just before turning out the light, I did wonder whether I should I go to Vogue Fabrics' free sewing demo tonight (it's all about neat ways to use stabilizer) or go to Loopy Yarns sweater night to work on this project yet again? I just don't know. I'm so frustrated.

You know how we solve this kind of problem in the sewing world? (C. - listen closely). We snip! the offending fabric. Flip the fabric so it's facing the proper direction. Make a Solvy sandwich, with the cut fabric serving as the proverbial slice of ham. We do free-motion stitching on top of the sandwich. Wash away the stabilizer. Voila! Problem solved. No more flipping.

I'm not ready to take my scissors (which are actually being sharpened at Vogue Fabrics) to my knitted fabric. I can't quite sever the relationship yet. I need to get still more advice. God help me.

Gotta go -

Mary Beth

Sunday, June 14, 2009

That's It. We're Done.

Dear. C-

I've been in denial for the past three weeks. We're not a good match. We never were. I'm sorry. I just don't know how else to break it to you.

Sure, we had some good times. You were always good for long bus rides, hopping on the Metra train at short notice. I loved, loved how you were, time and time again, up for a Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, even though you don't like fast-food coffee joints. I'll always remember the time we were on the El - headed downtown to Martini Park for a little dancing. You didn't flinch an eye when we went around the curve near the Sheridan Road stop, and ditto at Sedgewick. You're such a good sport, and you hate heights, although we were just a several Michael Jordans off the ground, not a full-fledged John Hancock building or even the skyscraper formerly known as the Sears Tower.

Like I said, I've been in denial for the past three weeks. Something wasn't right from the get-go. Something was twisted. I kept overlooking this, telling myself, "No, everything's fine. You're working in the round. That's why the fabric won't lay flat. You're knitting on circular needles."

So I kept going. Determined, as always. Valiant even. I'd unflip - or at least I thought - the oh so pretty lace every time I came to the beginning. Everything would fix itself once I cast off the last stitch I tried to convince myself. Yes, my ribbed tank top would look just divine and dandy.

However, last night I realized that all was not right. This relationship, albeit a circular one, wasn't going to make it through the summer. There would be no more rides on the CTA buses, no more laughs on the ride downtown to Martini Park, not even late nights of "Just One More Row Before I Go" to bed. No more of that. None!

While it appeared that I was nearly at the end of the my knitted Crest Waves, the bottom of my tank top, I thought....I think I'm going to have start over. For one last time, I tried to flatten the fabric, and as usual, it kept twisting. I thought, "I'm going to have accept it that I'm making a lace MOEBIUS STRIP." Yes, what I was making would be perfectly lovely in Cat Bordhi's book (She of the intentional knitted Moebius strip fame).

So unless I wanted something pretty and twisty around my neck, I've decided I'm going to have to frog this work in progress, the second such project in two months. I'm not going to complete any knitting this summer at the rate I'm going. I'm going to have a perpetual Groundhog Dog on the same darn thing. Back and forth on the Red Line, I'll be working on my bamboo needles, the same yarn getting more frayed by the minute. Babies will grow up and go to college before I tie this one off. Budget problems will be solved in Congress. New presidents will be elected. Couples will marry, procreate, move to Saudi Arabia for a job and then back...and all the while I'll be working on the same skein of Lion Brand Cotton-Ease (C.). Yes, I'm a thrifty girl, I am.

Okay, I'm finished venting, C. Like I said, we're finished. I don't want to see you again. I'll take a picture of you, C., just for the memories. I'm defriending you on Facebook...at least for a few hours. You can send me a new friend request later today. I promise I won't ignore or delete it. In the meantime, I'll be back at Arcadia Knitting at 12 noon sharp, to see if I can't salvage this project. Hopefully I won't have to cast on all 220 stitches yet again....just merely make sure I don't twist my work at the beginning. Yes, I'm really stubborn. I want to make this relationship work. Can you really forgive a girl for trying?

Love and kisses (at least for now),
Mary Beth

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

So Easy You Can Do It Too: The Minimalist Dress Panel

I took 20 photos, and this headless shot turned out the best. But this sleeveless, shirred bodice dress, along with its burgundy twin, has become my spring/summer staple. It's amusing, to me at least, how these two dresses which I made last year, spent the better part of the fall and winter slumped over a wicker folding screen. I didn't even bother to hang them, which says oodles about how I actually felt about the dresses. Don't you find that the tops, pants, etc. that you are so proud of sewing or knitting get the scooped off the floor pronto? I mean, they rest there for maybe a nano-second, and then Bam! they're back on a shelf more neatly folded than a chemise at Victoria's Secret? I know that's the case for me. I think my sub-conscious mind sees that all the labor, cost of supplies, adds it up and tells the conscious part: "No way, Jose, is that top I spent half the day Sunday sewing going to get dirty....Wait, this is so pretty. I love how nice and neat the twin-needle stitching is on the neckline. Gosh, that looks so good." I admire my work, smile, fold, stick item on top of other sewn goodies I love to wear, trip over dirty ankle socks on the way out of the bedroom, still more pleased than Wasabi nuts (I'd say peas, but that's so cliche).

Maybe I don't hang these dresses because they're strapless. I need to store them like they're skirts (which they can be if I so desire.) But I'm a procrastinator...so back on top of the screen they go when I'm finished wearing them for the day.

Anyhow, if you're so inclined to wear dresses like this now, you're in luck in more ways than one. I see similar ones on the rack at Marshall's. If you want to sew, here are a couple of supremely sewable dress panels: a baby blue version and a pink one. You could finish these off in an hour or so on a sewing machine. Here's what I did to mine:

1. Flip over bodiced edge. Stitched down.
2. Use over-cast stitch on a Viking Husquarna (not sure if it's mine or the one at Vogue Fabrics' classroom in Evanston). to enclose back seam.
3. Attach rolled-hem foot to sew and prettify the hem. If you don't have a rolled hem foot, you could simply stitch on matching lace for a different look.

Wear. Again and again. They travel well - any wrinkles incurred while smooshed inside look like they're supposed to be there. With the right shoes, this is so stylish. Here I am wearing same dress last year. What super-easy one afternoon dresses are on your sewing agenda now?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Done Deal: Sewing Swap Set: Tuesday, June 30*

I did it. I ventured out in the winter cold yesterday to the Rogers Park Library even though there's nary a book on hold under my name. Signed all the paperwork, flashed my driver's license, all to secure a meeting room for the purpose of exchanging fabric, patterns and notions with fellow sewers on the evening of Tuesday, June 30. That's a heads up for all you locals to get your stuff organized - the fabric into boxes, the unused zippers into bags, the buttons in baggies. You've got more than three Tuesdays in a row to get your stuff in order. This will also give you time to shop at Vogue Fabrics' sale beginning Sunday. Acquire some new jerseys and eyelets that you will give you the guts to ditch the fabric you bought at last year's summer sale that's still sitting in the bottom of your mesh bin in the closet. In with the new and out boldly with the old!

Better yet, best to start a pile for the swap now while you're doing your everyday cleaning. If there's a pattern coated with a fine powder, into the Trader Joe's bag it goes. Ditto the zippers you bought at last year's garage sale but never used. Same deal for the swaths of the stretch lace you swear you were going to make into a top in January, but never did. Be sure to tag that with my name. I want it. I'll stitch it up in no time flat, cats.

I trust it will be a lot warmer on the 30th, probably blazing hot, making the library a pleasant retreat from the humid haziness outside. Count on more goodies and swappers than last time because I intend to advertise a lot more widely. Not quite to the corners of the earth. But almost. I'll post on Craig's list, double up on the Facebook status updates, Twitter ten times ten. For those of you with blogs, I'd appreciate a link.

My contribution so far? A box of unused yarn from Ireland. Still in a Carson Pirie Scott box, I'm guessing back from the days when department stores sold yarn. There's also a carton of emerald-green wool skeins, and then another smaller one, same manufacturer, black fiber. I know it's not exactly the stuff of a sewer's dream, but a knitter might find it wonderful. So I'll bring that as my lone donation at the moment. No doubt I'll add other things to the collection soon. Isn't that the fun of getting ready for a party weeks in advance? It's not quite the same as dressing up on the big day, but anticipation, no matter how you slice this watermelon, is still delicious. Besides, it's the Tuesday before the Fourth of July, a festive week in my book. Start the fireworks early by coming to the swap. One more time: it's Tuesday, June 30, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Rogers Park Library, 6907 N, Clark St, Chicago, second floor, the south room. Again, that's Tuesday, June 30, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Rogers Park Library, 6907 N, Clark St, Chicago, second floor, the south room. I feel like a radio announcer. Email me for details or leave a note in the comments.
* The fabric above? I'm not sure about the price, but I'm sure it's bound to go on sale Sunday. I think this cotton would be terrific made up into a 1950s shirtwaist dress with a Peter Pan collar.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Planning Another Fabric Swap

Weeks after the first successful fabric swap, I'm still getting emails. They're of the "Oh darn, I missed this one. When will you do it again?" and "Let me know when you do this next time!" variety. I've dutifully responded to them all, although one response bounced back to me even though I swear the email address was correct down to the last letter.

For those of you who want to see a swift repeat, you're in luck. I'm off to the Rogers Park Public Library to book another evening of fabric fun in a twinkle. I'll do it just as soon as it gets a few degrees warmer here. Right now, we've got March madness (cold weather, lots of bone-chilling humidity) even though it's June. I know the library is a few blocks from my home and walking there would probably be enough for me to break into a sweet sweat, but I'm not budging just yet. I need to soak up the sun as I head to the library. Oh yes, it wouldn't hurt if some of the books I've put on hold are available as soon as possible. That might actually draw me out boldly into the cold: the prospect of new books to read while I'm on the bus and the train.

For those of you who didn't participate in the last go-around, here's what you need to know. We don't deal in scraps or remnants at our swap. That might sound a little elitist, but it's simply practical. It's hard enough to sort sumptuous swaths of polyester, wool or even suede, but little pieces of the same are enough to drove a sewing community organizer insane. It's bad enough to walk out of a library covered head to toe with different colors of thread and not one book in my hands, but try sorting these itsy-bitsy pieces one day and you'll see what I mean quickly.

What else? Be prepared to leave the library with lots of stuff. So bring those Whole Foods and Trader Joe bags. Park a get-away vehicle with an empty trunk in the back, but if I see you tear out of the lot with wheels screeching, I'm going to be mighty suspicious that you're off to sell your goods in the blackmarket. For those you don't deal in histrionic he-man driving, a grocery cart would be handy.

Be prepared, too, to make new friends. Of the crafty, "I grow mung bean sprouts, how about you?" genus. Have business cards and flyers on your person (or at least in the aforementioned grocery cart). These friendly folk will be beyond helpful in your quest to find a particular out-of-print pattern, fabric or yarn. (Which brings me to another point. I'm looking for one skein of Gedifra Wellness 2115, lot 9100. Anyone out there got what I need?)

I can't say for sure the swap will abate any itch for brand-new fabric. I've yet to see a survey or a poll on that topic, although it seems like a timely one for the likes of Crafstylish. I mean I acquired a nearly new nice knit at the last exchange, and I was still looking longing at the new scallop-edge cotton at Vogue Fabrics on Monday (see above photo). I even took some photos of it because that was free compared to buying, which would actually mean taking some money out of my checking account. Pictures aren't the same, but they don't take up as nearly as much space as actual textiles. Photographs of fabric, especially of the digital kind, don't attract dustmites, and don't fight for space in the closet with clothes.

Back to the swap. Encourage me to step outside, break free from my comfort zone and just get over to the library now. Or at least at lunchtime. Stimulate my feet with the thought of a slice of pizza bought along the way. Tell me that it's on my way to Arcadia Knitting. Or even to Hopleaf. Spur me by telling me that a little exercise would help me drop a few pounds. Just tell me to get away from the MacBook for a few minutes. Won't kill me, or even injure me. Nudge me. Book the fabric swap. It's just another to-do on the Big List of Things to Do Today. Not tomorrow. Not this weekend. Today.