Sewing Notebook: Selfie in new tunic

I am awkward in front of the camera, but still I feel the need to start showing off the clothing I make more often (wearing it, not just hanging in front of the wardrobe). Mustard yellow tunic with bright pink butterflies – a fabric I would never normally wear (I was using it as a muslin to see if I loved the pattern – which I didn’t) – but paired with a cardigan and leggings I think it works quite well. So there, a goofy picture of me wearing a new tunic.


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Perception deficits on my morning walk to work

Have you ever noticed how much less you see when you put in your iPod headphones and walk down the street? And yes, I mean “see” because I am convinced that I do not witness/observe/appreciate nearly the same amount of visual stimuli with my earbuds in.

I’ve been walking to work again recently – six kilometres door to door – through Hastings-Sunrise, Grandview-Woodland, Strathcona, the Downtown Eastside and right into the heart of downtown. It feels like descending through rock strata as I pass from one distinct neighbourhood to the next, passing colourful houses, community gardens, groups of Chinese women doing Qi gong exercises along the way.

For whatever reason, this last month I’ve been putting on the iPod more often than not – which wasn’t the case last year when I walked. It’s like I forgot over the winter that I don’t “get bored” with the sounds around me, and somehow I need the extra stimulus of music. So for the last few weeks – that’s how I’ve been taking my steps and I have to admit it’s been kindof awesome. Driving music definitely quickens my pace, and if I play the rights kinds of things – a little joy even leaps up in my heart from time to time, giving me connections to my self and my own thoughts as I get my morning exercise.

But because music played through headphones turns one inwards – internalizes the experience of being in the world by blocking out non-controlled sound – so too does our range of visual perception narrow. I hadn’t really been aware of the degree this was happening until this morning.

When I stepped outside my door, the birds were making a racket and for the first time in a couple of weeks I decided to pocket my iPod instead of tuning into it. Within a few blocks I noticed that rather than focusing down and directly ahead, is that without the headphones I am much more likely to put my chin up and open my field of awareness outside of myself. While I have always known this to be true when interacting with other people on the street, that headphones limit those interactions, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so aware of how blocking external/environmental sounds (replacing them with others) creates nothing short of a  sensory deficit. A distraction, I suppose, from the real drama unfolding continually around us (and especially in the city!)

And yet, once I get downtown, every other person is plugged in to a machine – turned towards their individual and interior space, each grooving to their own private soundtrack designed to reinforce or change their mood of the morning. Which is how so many of us navigate through the city – on foot, in a car, even by bicycle – tuned into ourselves and away from everyone and everything else. And despite the fact we (almost) all engage in what can only be termed a form of narcissism (“I only need to listen to my interior self, fuck the exterior around me”) we are annoyed when others do so.

I’m not sure how I got into this headphone habit, except that it gives me an artificial stimulus I talked myself into thinking I needed. Good thing the birds reminded me this morning that there is much more to hear and see when I don’t plug myself into a machine upon encountering the world outside.


Recognizing myself in the mirror.

Most recent finished project – a crochet bathing suit cover-up. I took a day off yesterday to nurse my health a little and got this finished while watching bad TV.

I am coming to confront some things about myself these days – not terrible things, and not confront as in finger-pointing and nasty – so perhaps a better word is recognize. Because it’s true that although I understand certain things about the way I behave, I do not always recognize what they mean when all is added up.

The first recognition is that I am some kind of WORKAHOLIC. While it’s true that I don’t spend all my waking hours at my job, I do spend all of my waking hours busy with something. As in, I can’t just relax because I feel like I should be doing something all the time. ALL the time. For real. And if I’m not doing something ALL the time I hear a voice that tells me I’m lazy and not a very good person. Having said that I am very FORTUNATE that I am not an office-driven workaholic and instead I subvert most of that drive into household activities like gardening, sewing, housekeeping, cooking, canning and so forth — all things I love to do. What I don’t love is feeling like I need to keep going all the time in order to keep up my sense of self-worth.

And it’s not only that I’m busy all the time, but I set really ridiculous standards for myself — which is my second recognition — I am also some kind of a PERFECTIONIST. I have never felt at home with that label because I am so un-perfect in everything I do. But as I talked to my psychologist the other day it dawned on me that I set impossible standards anyways. For example – it’s not enough that I make the occasional piece of clothing for myself if I don’t make all my own clothing. Or it’s not enough that I meditate every day if I don’t sit in the position of greatest discomfort to myself while doing so. Top that off with the fact that I can’t sit in a room with a crooked picture on the wall without straightening it and one might get the idea that I am UPTIGHT. But I am not uptight about other people. Just me.

The good thing is that I am somewhat aware of these behaviours and I am definitely not on the extreme end of the spectrum. I just need to take care a little more to step back from myself and determine what I really need in terms of self-care and self-talk.

So yesterday, for example, rather than taking a lot of meds and powering through my chronic sinusitis attack (which has been going on for days and is really painful), I stayed home, watched bad TV in bed all day and didn’t feel bad about it. (The fact that I finished crocheting the above sweater was a bonus, but nothing I felt like I had to do). The staying home is something I am willing to do when I am sick — but the not feeling bad about it is an entirely different fish than I am used to. And the fact that it was as easy as telling myself “this is okay, you need to rest and not feel guilty about it” makes me wonder if I end up feeling bad about myself just because it’s a habit and not because I actually, deep-down, feel that way.

Like I said – recognitions. I’m having them these days. Hopefully in the discovery I can also find ways to change these things and go a little easier on myself. Because I enjoy my life – and it would be just that much better if I let myself truly enjoy myself.

Imagining the end of the world

It is easier to imagine the end of the world, than the end of capitalism.

I have changed my work schedule starting this week in order to fit meditation and walking 6 km to work into my life before I hit the desk – just in time for the glorious change in weather. But instead of sharing one of the beautiful little flowers poking its head up from the dirt, or a bird flitting in the neighbourhood shrubbery – I am sharing this little piece of truth  captured on the side of a city works trailer.

This graffiti makes me think of lots of people I have known and things I have done — which I realize now weren’t weren’t in the service of ending capitalism but of ending my own sense of suffering.  I think to be honest the graffiti would actually read “it’s easier to imagine the end of the world, than the end of suffering.” This explains a lot of apocalyptic thinking (and action) on the left and right – call it whatever you want (capitalism/oppression/suffering/guilt) we are all looking for a way out. For some of us the suffering is so extreme that we can only imagine it ending if everything ends with it (and if you are a Christian – you might not be so sure about that because hell is always a potential afterwards).

This is jihad, and revolutionary class war, and the rapture all rolled into one – it’s like scratching an itch so hard that it ruptures and creates a permanent wound. It’s the impotence of protest activism and the frustration of spiritual poverty. It’s an inability to envision transformation.

But if you could pull the plug, would you? I suppose that depends how great the suffering is – for those mad from it might do terrible things. Most of us, however, just imagine. We march and pray and spraypaint and hope that transformation comes in our lifetimes. Even if we have a hard time believing it will.

100 Blocks: Block #2


On the second day of quilting my true love gave to me — two bees a buzzing…..

(I’ve decided that listing my squares here one by one will get tedious so I have set up a Flickr set that you can check out if so interested – I’ve actually go 15 squares posted at the moment and will post galleries of 25 at a time here or something when I get to those milestones)

(Block design: Tula Pink’s City Sampler: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks)

Finishing the ugly quilt

Besides working on one block at a time, I’ve got this monster to finish, as I’ve pulled it out of the back of the closet with a commitment to either bringing it to closure or pitching it out. Of course the frugalist in me can’t stand the idea of throwing out that much fabric (not to mention that much work) – so finished it will be.

While this might not actually rank as the ugliest quilt (it definitely has some woodsy charm) – it definitely did not come together as I had hoped in designing it. See, about nine years ago I decided to make a quilt for a friend, built around that gorgeous and very retro leaf fabric (which reminds me of the prints on the sleeping bags we had as kids). I had hoped that by pairing a sold block with a four-patch that the leaf fabric would dominate the quilt…… but!

As I was very new to quilting and possess no colour-theory background, I didn’t stop to think of the tone-value of the batiks I chose to go alongside the leaf-print…. which as you can see are much brighter. Thus my quilt is dominated by bright olive green and bright rust orange rather than the lovely muted fabric I fell in love with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI started on this when I lived in Gibsons – and pieced almost the entire top before abandoning it to the unfinished objects box. From there it got moved back to the city, and then into the house I currently live in – all without a serious evaluation towards getting it finished. But lately I’ve grown tired of all the bits and pieces and want to move some of the clutter out of my sewing cupboard.

When I pulled it out of the box last week, I found the main quilt along with four additional rows which would round the spread out to queen-size proportions. All I have to do now is iron it all out, sew on the remaining rows and then quilt and bind it.

So that’s a lot. And it’s a lot of work for a quilt that I won’t love when it’s finished. However, it has a woodsy/campy flair and the colour scheme means it will never look dirty. Since we are starting a cabin build later this spring, I think I’m meant to finish this to throw over the couch when we’re done.

Besides my lovely little arty pieced blocks, this is my other sewing project – one I should probably get done sooner rather than later before I lose my willingness to go back to it.

100 Blocks: Block #1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt feels like cheating to only post on block in a post as opposed to a whole finished quilt or multiple blocks – so I’m not sure whether I will continue in this vein. For number one of one hundred though? I think this deserves its own post.

This is the first of what will be one hundred six-inch (finished) blocks made using the designs of Tula Pink found in the book Tula Pink’s City Sampler: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks.

I downloaded the Kindle* version of this book a couple of weeks ago, around the same time I decided that I wanted to practice my piecing and make samplers – so perfect! Along with the Aurifil BOM, I am making 100 Tula Pink blocks for a Queen-sized quilt.

The blocks in this book range from very simple to more complex, though none of them require any special knowledge to put together (the book includes a section explaining how triangles and trapezoids are constructed, which is the only “tricky” stuff really). Some of the blocks have only five pieces while others are comprised of twenty or more. The most pieces in one block? Thirty. Which is a lot of little pieces for the size of these blocks!

Anyhow – I love them all and they really lend themselves to being treated as little stand-alone artworks. This also gives a mindful quality to the piecing, particularly as I am not using a single fabric line or colour-scheme – I’m hoping to get a rainbow effect at the end, but we’ll just have to see how it all comes together (one block at a time).

* I don’t own and e-reader and would rather have an all-paper library but when it comes to craft books – quilting, sewing, crochet which don’t come with fold-out patterns – I would rather have the e-versions these days. I have so little craft room as it is, and I find it just as easy to work off my laptop when it comes to reading a block pattern.

Aurifil Blocks of the Month: January & February

For some reason 2014 has bit me with a quilting bug like never before. Although I learned to quilt about ten years ago now, I have mostly confined myself to small projects (I’ve made 3 queen-size and 3 lap-sized quilts otherwise it’s all table runners and placemats) – mostly because I hate the actual quilting stage on a small sewing machine (and no, I don’t have room in my life for a long-arm).

Anyways – I’ve got two quilting interests in particular going on and you’re likely going to be seeing it all year long (if you come back that is):

  1. Samplers – I am fascinated with samplers and have long wanted to make one. In particular I would like to spring for the Mill Book 1852 Fat Quarter Bundle and use it as the basis of a  Dear Jane quilt ….. but not before I get my act together and tackle a couple of simpler projects first.
  2. Piecing – Related to wanting to make a sampler quilt I have to acknowledge that I am an imprecise sewist and my piecing leaves a lot to be desired – so before tackling anything too huge I have decided to perfect my piecing skills bit by bit – while putting together two different quilts over the next year.

What you see below are the first two blocks for my first sampler project – which is a Block-A-Month hosted by Aurifil. I had a box of brown, turquoise and red fabrics (some already cut) set aside for a quilt that I never really started a couple of years ago – and decided to start there rather than purchase more. The top block is January, and the bottom February.

I have not used my piecing foot in a very long time and lined my seams up entirely wrong on my first go at January – what you see below is the second attempt. Even though I almost had it right, both January and February fall a bit short of 12-inch finished blocks — but I hope to stretch the hell out of them when it comes to setting them into a quilt.

Fortunately I have now figured out this piecing foot, though it is so hard to see the quarter-inch plate edge that I need my glasses to use it! (Confession – I need my glasses for pretty much anything close-up these days).



Me and the new market totes.

My days at work have been crazy, and my time at home almost entirely consumed by sewing. My aunt (mom’s sister) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this week. My 4-year-old nephew has asked for a new crochet dragon as a companion for the one I made him for Christmas. I’m behind on my Directed Study this semester. Mica’s school play opened this week.

And my mind is just like that – from one thing to the next without the time to synthesize it into some grand statement about life and creativity and happiness.

I am meditating a lot, and I’ve started walking (6 km) to work on the mornings without rain or snow. I would like to lose some weight as illness gave me too many excuses for sluggishness. Despite that I’m feeling pretty good these days.

For the next several posts I will only be blogging pictures of what I am working on including the start of my 100-block project. This is the first of the pictures – new market totes!

Our old totes were getting a bit shabby and then I ran into this wonderful owl canvas at Spool of Thread. Matched up with some denim in my stash they make for delightful and sturdy carry-alls.



A little extra detail on the handles too – love those fancy stitches!



More new sewing – Cooper Messenger Bag.

Besides finishing the pillowcases for my quilt set on the weekend, I also managed to get a second iteration of the Cooper messenger bag done – this one for myself.


This bag turned out better than the one I made last month for Brian – not only did I correct the squaring of the bottom, but the detail straps on the top flap went on straight this time. Like the first bag, I made this one out of waterproof fabric and it features several pockets, magnetic snaps and rivets.

What I would do different? I would definitely interface this bag the next time around. I pretty much always interface bags I make – because I like them to have some body on their own – but this time I hoped that the heavy canvas would do the job. Sadly, this bag is a little floppy for my liking. Great if it’s full of stuff but otherwise lacking in structure – which I suppose is the messenger bag way (not the fault of the pattern, in other words – this is personal preference issue.

I am currently working on a pair of market totes (which will be interfaced) and am proud to say that having made Cooper twice I am now adept enough with magnetic snaps and jiffy rivets that I feel comfortable incorporating them into other free form projects. Skill building is a definite win out of doing this project twice.

I do plan to make the Cooper Backpack version in the near future (I’ve got a trip to Hawaii coming up and I thought it would be a cute carry-along) – but in the meantime this is my carry-to-work bag. Waterproof being very important for that function. Thanks to Colette Patterns for the easy-to-follow instructions not to mention the excellent companion PDF.