Monday, August 31, 2015

In Progress

Suddenly tomorrow is September (!) and with the change in the weather this week (rain, finally) it feels absolutely like harvest time and the season for cozy indoor crafting. Really, who am I kidding - summer in Portland continues through September - but I'll make the most of this week of cozyness and cool nights after so many months of heat and drought.

In progress these days:
  • This chili ristra, made with the glowing fruit of my Dragon Cayenne plant. 

The peppers turn red a few at a time, so the ristra is hanging by the window with the needle still on the doubled thread, ready to add a few more chilis every couple of days.

  • Coriander seed

 Mostly dried on the stalk in the garden (from a handful of generous volunteer plants) after we ate all the leaves, I rescued a big handful of these from the rain this weekend. It is finishing its drying in a paper bag hanging in my room, then will move to the spice cupboard.
  • A braided rag rug. Perhaps my newest favorite crafty endeavor, I'm completely hooked on this project!

When I moved in with Bill, I was finally able to move my fabric scrap collection from a big bag into some Ikea wire drawers, and I took the time sort it all and purge out all the scraps I didn't want to keep for future sewing projects. A lot were old clothes and linens. Some (read: the bright orange 70s print above) came with other, more desirable fabrics in cheap bags found at secondhand stores. I wanted to make use of all the scraps in some way, and my longtime love of the Little House books immediately came to my aid - a rag rug! I looked up a tutorial and immediately found this one, fittingly on the Little House Living website.

 My rug will not be chic in its color scheme, which is a complete hodge-podge, but it sure is fun and easy to make. Once I had torn all of the fabric into strips, I organized it by color (sort of). One ball is entirely a red and purple based print that I had an overabundance of, one ball is all of the solid colors, and another is all of the other prints. I have no real idea how big the final product will be, but I'm already looking forward to making another in the future. I like the idea of finding some old sheets at a thrift store to create a more consistent color palette. [Tip: Cut the strips into ~3 foot strips. Any longer and they get easily tangled with each other. Also, try not to be adding two new strips at exactly the same point, or the braid gets extra lumpy; try to stagger the bulk of adding new strips]. 

This is a really great project to have at hand to pull out and work on for a few minutes in the evening or on a Sunday afternoon. I've been enjoying listening to podcasts (Backstory is my current favorite) while braiding away. 

Happy September, everyone!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Checking In

Hello, there! It's been an absurdly long time since my last post - life has been busy! Things have happened! For example:
I moved out of the shoebox apartment where I spent a great 2.5 years, and joined forces with Bill at the house he has lived at since before I met him.

We share the house with two roommates and a cat, have a small but lovely garden, and the spare bedroom became "my room," where all of my stuff lives and I have a sewing table and a futon for guests.

    Life is so much easier without our constant going back and forth between each other's homes, although there are the small irritations of living with housemates (lack of space in the fridge being a primary one for me), although the housemates themselves are excellent people. Most of my kitchen gear is in storage in the basement since the house was well furnished already, so it will be fun unpacking it all someday.

    It's been an unnervingly hot and dry summer in the northwest, but we've made the most of it. Sail camping, a fantastic backpacking trip in the North Cascades, a family reunion in Port Townsend, and my birthday at a cousin's new farm - this summer has been one of the best.
    Day four of five in the North Cascades

    Point Wilson lighthouse and Admiralty Inlet

    How I spent my 31st birthday

     A summer ritual

    It's been summer since April, with weeks of temperatures over 95 F, and even if the entire American West wasn't burning right now, I'd be ready for fall. But now we're praying for rain and here, at the edge of September, I am absolutely looking forward to cooler nights, wool socks, red leaves and baked squash. I've got some new autumn-y projects to work on which I will share here, as once again I try to revive my writing a bit. I hope you're all well, and I look forward to spending more time here in the coming weeks.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2015

    Meet Wessinger Woodworks!

    Hey, it's been awhile since I've been around here- more updates to come soon. But first, I wanted to share some exciting news: Bill has just launched his own furniture and woodworking company! He's been designing and building furniture for years, and now his craft is for sale!

    Sure I'm biased, but others will tell you that Bill is truly a craftsman and has an amazing brain for design. Every one of his pieces is handbuilt by him and designed with his eye for interesting and beautiful joinery. This chair is one of the most comfortable and lovely things I have ever sat in:

    Tell your interior designer friends, and please visit the link to his website above to see more designs and learn more!

    Wednesday, April 1, 2015

    A Lively Quilt

    I'm back, to share my very first solo quilting project with you! Over the last year or so I've been challenging myself with new and more complex sewing projects, including quilting and making various items of clothing. A dear friend of mine recently returned to our hometown after nearly six years of living in Southeast Asia, and she returned not only with a wonderful husband, but with a bun in the oven! I latched onto the opportunity and decided to try my hand at a baby quilt. I had been involved in quilting projects with my mom and aunts while growing up, but never attempted anything on my own. I used this tutorial, and found it was flawless (the tutorial, not my quilt).

    I mostly used fabrics I already had. Knowing that this baby would have a big, bright personality, I went big and bright with my fabric choices. I also knew it would be a boy, but I try not to let gender have too much influence on colors and patterns. My favorite tip from the tutorial was to include a "zinger fabric" to really get a color that pops out and catches the eye. After going through my collection and cutting out squares, I ended up buying some bright red and yellow to get the zinger effect.

    I think my favorite stage of the process was arranging and rearranging the squares until I got the perfect layout of colors and patterns. 

     Adding a bright yellow border

     I used a double layer of 80/20 cotton/polyester batting since I was machine quilting. Love the feel and weight of it, and it feels a bit more wholesome than the completely synthetic stuff. I used a pale yellow gingham for the backing.

    Learning how to use basting pins. 

    Learning to quilt with my shiny new sewing machine (!!). It was a little cumbersome but went quickly. Looking at this picture, I'm not entirely sure why I was trying to feed all the rolled up part of the quilt under the machine arm rather than turning the whole thing around and sewing from the other direction. Well, you live and learn. 

    Perhaps not entirely straight corners and quilting, but I'm pretty pleased with the result. 

    Adding the binding!

    Learning how to make mitered corners. 

    Done! Bright, soft, and a really nice weight for a wee one. 

    Washed and ready to go. I love the crinkled antique-y look it took on after washing. 

     The quilt was posted off at the end of January, along with some burp clothes and bibs. I learned so much, had a very satisfying result, and am looking forward to trying my hand at another (small) quilt soon. Also, you might like to know that Baby Boy was born strong and healthy, at home, on February 5th. I get to meet him this weekend and can't wait!

    Saturday, January 17, 2015

    Oh, hello!

    Hi! It's been awhile. I don't have a particularly good excuse for being absent from my blog, but some things did happen in the last six months.

    -In October I started a new job, in my field. I now work for the Oregon Health Authority, doing work I believe in and am excited about. It keeps me very busy and I get to travel around the state and work with awesome people, so it's very fulfilling. 

    -I gave up my community garden plot when I started my new job. It's so sad not to have a garden to plan for this time of year, but working downtown and being so busy, I never would have gotten to my plot anyway.

    -I have taken several trips to see my family and have spent lots of time with my little niece, Maggie, who is now nine months old (!!)

    -Bill and I have continued to work on a Shaker style cabinet for my kitchen (which we started over a year ago). Now it just needs drawers and a worktop.

    -I started and completed my most ambitious sewing project to date. It's a gift, so more details after it has been gifted.

    Life is good, projecting continues to happen, and hopefully I can get to be around here more often these days. Happy New Year!

    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    A Birthday Apron

    I just finished a fun, challenging-to-me sewing project: a kids' apron of my own design. My niece Maya (daughter of one of my best friends) just turned six (!!), and this was my gift to her. In a sense, it was custom-made: I took Maya with me to the fabric store, and she picked out all the fabrics and decorations ("Can it be pink, Auntie Liz? Can it have sparkles?!?! And these buttons?!" Sure. I can figure out a way to put buttons on an apron!). Then I worked up a design and sewed for a month of fits and starts, as I do, and voilá:

    I am pretty pleased with the result. I'm really glad I wrote my pattern out step by step ahead of time, to make sure I got everything in the right order. I presented it to the birthday girl on Thursday, and was happy to see that it fits well, although is plenty large so she'll be able to use it for a long time. And was very gratified by her glorious smile and exclamations of "You made it so so beautiful Auntie Liz!" Bless young eyes that don't see my mistakes.

    I don't have a good way to share my pattern, but it was fun to come up with so I'll give it a shot. It was a good exercise in geometry and fabric engineering, for my not-particularly-math-inclined brain. I probably could have made it simpler, but I wanted to make sure it was "fancy" for this awesome little girl. Hopefully the photos are a good reference if my directions get confusing.

    This could easily be adapted into a larger apron, but the final dimensions for this one were:

    Height (top of bib to bottom of skirt): 29 inches
    Width (top of skirt): 13 inches

    2 100% cotton fabrics, one print (1/2 yard) and one solid (1 yard), pre-washed and dried on high heat
    Matching thread(s)
    Buttons (optional)

    Pieces (All dimensions include 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side):

    Print fabric

    • Shape is a trapezoid, with the curve added onto the bottom after these dimensions 
    • Height: 15 inches from top to bottom of trapezoid
    • Width at top: 14 inches
    • Width at bottom of trapezoid: 19 inches
    • I used a ruler and the skirt of one of my aprons to help me free-hand an even curve at the bottom of the skirt. The curve is optional!   
    Bib: 10 inches x 10 inches

    Solid Fabric
    Belt: 5 inch x 44 inch strip (could stand to be longer, but these are the dimensions I used)
    Neck straps (2): 2.5 inch x 19 inch strip
    Pocket: 5 inches x 6 inches (optional: cut off bottom corners diagonally for more interesting shape)
    Hem ruffle: 3 inches wide, cut to match slant of sides of skirt and bottom curve of skirt, or  3x19 inches with slanted ends if using flat line at bottom of skirt

    Project Steps:

    Cut out pieces in this order:
    1. Belt (you'll want to use the long side of your yard of fabric before you cut out any other pieces)
    2. Neck straps
    3. Skirt
    4. Bib
    5. Pocket
    6. Hem ruffle 

    (note: I'm leaving out steps that involve pressing seams and belt/straps, I figure you'll be able to tell when you need to do those things)
    1. Hem top of pocket
    2. Sew ric-rac onto pocket
    3. Turn sides and bottom of pocket under and sew onto skirt
    4. Hem the bottom of the ruffle
    5. Sew ruffle to skirt
    6. Sew ric-rac onto skirt
    7. Hem sides of skirt/ruffle
    8. Fold belt piece the long way with right side of fabric facing in.
       8a. Sew into a long tube, leaving the ends open.
       8b. Turn tube right side out (this is easiest done with a large safety pin pinned to one end, the same trick I use when threading elastic through a waistband).
       8c. Hem the ends of the belt
    9. Sew the skirt to the belt (make sure to mark the center of the belt and center of the skirt and line them up before sewing)
    10. Sew ric-rac onto bib
    11. Hem sides & top of bib

    12. Sew the bottom of the bib to the belt (again, remember to center it)
    13. Sew the straps to the top hem of the bib, at the very edges of the bib
    14. Sew the buttons onto the bib


    Friday, June 6, 2014


    It's that wonderful sunny busy time at the front end of the summer, before things get REALLY busy. Here's a little of what's been going on in my life lately. 

    :: I spent Memorial Day Weekend up north with my family, babytending my wee niece and enjoying a stay at my childhood home, where my favorite wildflowers were blooming. 

    :: My mom and her grandbaby

    :: A gift-in-progress for a pink-loving six-year-old

    :: The final batch of starts are now safely into the garden, with Bill's help this morning. Ararat basil from the farmer's market, tomatoes grown under my shop lights. Peas abound.

    :: Some of Bill's students got a gorgeous day to launch the boat they built. Bill took them on their maiden voyage, and later a smaller group of us went sailing in another student-built boat.

    :: Life is pretty darn good.