Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dreaming of a Sewing Room

I adore where I live. My apartment is small, but beautiful. I get lots of sunshine from my many windows, have a great clawfoot tub and pedestal sink, an efficient heater, and a great kitchen. I have a big storage locker and space for my bike and surfboard in the basement, quiet, kind neighbors, and of course my great backyard and garden. I love it here, and I want to live here for at least two years (I moved in at the beginning of June, so I’ve already been here almost nine months- that sure flew by!). But, I would love a sewing room. I have almost everything else I want, shy of having a whole house to call my own (or share with a partner). But I would really enjoy having a small, sunny room or nook just for sewing and projects, where supplies, sewing machine, and storage did not overflow into my living and sleeping spaces. It will never happen in this apartment, but I look forward to someday having the space for something like this. I am really inspired by my good friend Laurel’s sewing-room-that-used-to-be-the-laundry-room, with a sewing table with a big flat surface where her sewing machine lives, and shelves all around the walls for fabric, yard, patterns and notions.

Right now, my sewing things are scattered throughout the apartment. I like having my yarn, thread and needles out in the open so that they are accessible when I need to do some mending, otherwise I would never get around to it.

So my mending pile, yarn basket, and sewing box currently live in my main room, next to my gas fireplace. It looks fine there, but sometimes the pile gets out of hand if I don’t keep up with my mending!
I also don’t have the space for a spool stand for my thread collection. The inside of my sewing box used to be a hopeless tangle, and the best I could do for now was to put all my spools of thread into a tin to keep them from tangling with my other sewing supplies. My sewing machine usually lives in its case in the main room closet, along with my iron, rotary boards, and rag bag:

Another little box of notions that I don’t use often lives in a random cupboard in the kitchen. I would love to have an area where all of these things could live together and be constantly out and ready to use without disrupting the space where the rest of my life takes place.

I haven’t done a whole lot of sewing lately, I really need to get on track with the gift project that has a timeline (to be revealed after the gift is given!). I did get in some mending last night- I have three great new sweaters from the most recent “Naked Lady Party” (the clothing swaps that my girlfriends and I hold every several months- it’s a great way to get new free clothes when you’re bored of your wardrobe), but all three had little holes or tears, so I sat down and put them to rights. I also recently “remodeled” my favorite sweater after the zipper stopped working.

I didn’t want to give up on the sweater, but my sewing skills are nowhere near good enough to attempt taking removing one zipper and putting on a new one. So instead, I left the zipper on and picked out some wooden toggles and a length of cute ribbon.

VĂ³ila- funky, slightly Bavarian-looking new version of my favorite brown sweater!

I’m very pleased with the result. It always feels good to give new life to things that are worn out in other ways.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Garden Commences...and Compost Tribulations

While I will try to integrate other subjects into the blog as I am able, since we are almost to Spring here in Portland you will be hearing a lot about gardening. I hope you find it interesting, because it is at the front of my thoughts and what I want to write about! My love/obsession for gardening has made Matt think I’m a bit of a nutter (possibly the correct conclusion to arrive at when you find your significant other lying on floor by the grow lights, telling her onion starts to “grow, little plantlings, grow!” But hey, this is the first year I’ve had garden possibilities of this caliber, so do I really need a disclaimer?)

I had the day off on Monday for Presidents’ Day, and the forces that be must have been looking kindly on me (which I already knew- Matt and I had already had two days of amazing weekend, but that’s another story) because the entire day was sunny and warm like you wouldn’t believe for February 16th! I already had planned to spend most of my day gardening, and as it was I found every excuse I could to work outside, and ended up spending 4 solid hours in the yard and garden- in a t-shirt. I even had to wear sunscreen! Naturally, it started raining at night, but what a jewel of a day!

Cherry blossoms (!!) outside my bedroom, looking toward the garden.

I had planned simply to plant a few more starts to go under the lights, which I did- Coreopsis, a beautiful tall yellow flower that was always in the garden back home, and some pansies (a long time favorite since the days when my parents tested seeds of new varieties for Organic Gardening Magazine. I was always put in charge of the flowers, and they always had gorgeous new hybrid pansies). This year I planted “Horned Viola Mix” from Johnny’s.

Planting the starts involved mixing another batch of planting mix in a Rubbermaid tub (meaning I got to play in a box of dirt): approximately equal parts peat moss and soil from the garden plot, and then as much good compost as I could find- unfortunately it’s in short supply. Because I failed to lay in a stock of dry leaves in the fall (everything I gathered went on the garden for mulch), I have no “browns” to mix in with the “greens” that are all the kitchen scraps from my apartment, Julie’s apartment, Matt’s apartment, and my office. I love that we are keeping so much food waste out of the garbage, but I really need more browns (dead leaves, straw, sawdust, etc.- carbonaceous things that mix in and help break down the nitrogen-packed kitchen waste). Well, now I have learned my lesson, and this fall, I will lay in a supply of leaves to last the duration. Currently, my compost bin is very wet, kind of stinky, and with hardly any good black compost at the bottom. For now, I am attempting to remedy the problem by adding shredded newspaper and any dry leaves I can find. Funny timing that this had been on my mind, as I got onto the Down to Earth blog this morning, and Rhonda has a series of posts going about enriching soil and making good compost- it’s a really good rundown on the process.

One garlic patch all tidied up (see the tulips invading?)

I spent the rest of my garden time generally cleaning up the yard and garden space- pulling out all the sticks and twigs that had fallen down during the winter, taking down the stakes and twine marking off the garlic beds (now that the garlic is six inches tall they are no longer necessary), tying up the clematis vine on the fence behind the garden and pulling out the dead vine, scouting out all kinds of sprouting bulbs, planting snap peas (Oregon Sugar Pod II from Nichols Garden Nursery), and raking all the sticks and winter debris out of the yard, and stirring the compost.

Everything looks neat and tidy now, and it felt good to get so much sun and so much done!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fluorescent Lights and First Plantings!

My dining (well, living room) table has now become a fort for future plantlings! Matt brought over his drill two weekends ago and we put some hooks in the side beams of the table and strung up the new fluorescent lights.

Matt doing some measuring and drilling...

They are hung with slip-knotted strings so the height can be adjusted (the lights should always be about three inches off the leaves- thanks Mom!) I also bought a timer, so now they are set to provide sixteen hours of light per day (7 AM to 11 PM) and I don’t have to do the turning on and off. I’m feeling particularly good about this efficient use of space- I like simply making use of what I have, and this was the only possible place where the lights and plants would not take up extra space (which is at a premium in my flat) and where there was an overhang with enough height to accommodate growing plants. Also, it means that I will have lots of little green growing things right in my living room, they are close to a heat source (my gas fireplace), and my living space will have lots of extra light in it for the next few months, which will be an extra boost in helping fight off the winter blues.

The only downside to having the plant fort under my table is that it makes actually sitting at the table a little complicated. Knees and ankles bump into the lights and will potentially jostle the seedlings a little, but ultimately I think it is a good setup and it is of course temporary. The other obstacle I am seeing is that when my dear friend Lydia comes to visit next month with her 20-month-old daughter Maya, we will have our work cut out for us keeping curious toddler hands out of the dirt and away from the lights and their electrical cords. Luckily my apartment is so small that one of us will always be sitting next to the table anyway, and can act as a human baby gate!

An undertable plant fort! (click to enlarge photos)

Matt ponders soaking up some rays himself.

I planted my first starts this past weekend- onions (Nobility from Nichols Garden Nursery), standard white scallions, and red cabbage (Ruby Perfection from Nichols).

First tray of starts!

I was so eager to plant something, anything, and these are veggies that can go out into the garden earlier than most. We have been having a very mild winter here since Christmas, and spring appears to be just a few weeks away, so I am getting antsy to put things in the ground! I made the potting mix with a combination of compost, peat moss, and straight soil from the garden.

I also sat down and organized my seed box and wrote out my planting schedule-I will be keeping busy planting until late May, when most things will be transplanted out or already sown directly into the ground. Thus goes the cycle- the chaos of getting everything started and then planted into the garden, then weeding and mulching and fertilizing until everything grows strong enough to manage on its own, and then suddenly it’s harvest time, and then time to plant for fall crops, then after the fall harvest the garlic and kale go in and everything gets mulched over, then after a couple months’ break, the lights go up and it all starts again!