When you don’t know what to do

My hands itch. I want to make something. But not something I’ve already started. Something NEW. Maybe not even something I’ve made before. It’s driving me bananas, because I don’t know what IT is.

It’s times like these that I want a craft laboratory. Someplace stocked with odds and ends that might be useful someday, a day like today that’s made for experimenting.

Or at least has a really big table so I can see all my projects in their entirety at the same time. Which really would be ginormous, considering one is a king-sized quilt. But as long as I’m wishing, the tabletop would also be treated so I could iron on it and use a rotary cutter without damaging it.

But I digress.

What I will not be making today: I had this idea of making gravity blankets for Etsy, but as it turns out they fail the Venn diagram test.

Apparently a gazillion people already recognized an arbitrage opportunity when the original company stupidly priced its (ugly) product at hundreds of dollars.

Hmmm. Maybe something with all the scraps from other projects… we’ll call this Project Frankenstein for now.

Arriving late to the (e-commerce) party

I was in 9th grade when I got my first email address (courtesy of AOL).

I once used Netscape middle school, and remember discovering Google for the first time in college.

I remember when downloading mp3s didn’t seem illegal, and was shocked when my friend’s sister got in trouble.

I remember a time before Apple was a big deal, and just made boxy computers that played Lode Runner. (OK, I was maybe 3 years old, but I remember.)

My point is that I remember a lot of firsts, but was never an early adopter and didn’t hop on bandwagons.

So here I am, contemplating Etsy, years after it became popular, and trying to solve the worst Venn diagram ever to come up with viable product(s):

That yellow circle is killer. My poor, blessedly naive father once offered to buy yarn if I would knit him a sweater, and buy yarn for me to make myself one, too. $400+ later… They’re very nice sweaters, and I did try to warn him, but…

Do you think it’s too late to get a refund on my business school tuition?

The drawing gene I don’t have…

…and dearly wish I did. For the longest time, I thought being “creative” meant being able to draw, paint, sculpt, or similar. I am gifted in none of those areas. Middle and high school art classes did a pretty good job of demonstrating that.

It wasn’t until college when I took up knitting again, more seriously this time, that I realized how many ways there are to express yourself and “be creative.” And then I discovered sewing, and most recently quilting and braided rugs.

But I still wish I could draw. Now it’s from a more practical standpoint. I mentioned my issues with anxiety in my last post. I make light of it sometimes, but I’m still surprised to discover how much of my behavior it drives, even when I don’t consciously realize it.

Anyway. One thing I have realized is that tattoos have become my stress response when I feel out of control in my life. Feeling out of control is probably the worst thing ever for an anxiety-prone person. If you knew me, you’d be surprised. I know me, and I’m surprised I have tattoos. I’m also afraid of needles. (I recently had to have blood drawn at the doctor, and it wasn’t any easier than before. Go figure.)

The best way I can describe it is as kind of like my version of anorexia, at least as I understand it. It’s something I can control and do to my body when I can’t control anything else. It hurts a little (actually less than I feared), I like how it looks, and I feel like I’ve achieved something.

Side note: I am by no means advocating for anorexia. If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to someone you trust and get help.

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This was my first tattoo from September 2017, testing the waters, so to speak, at West 4th Tattoo. It means “impermanence” in Tibetan. I know, the irony. That was only the third layer of meaning to it, I have a weird sense of humor. The main meaning is about appreciating the good while it lasts, and how the yucky stuff won’t last forever. One of those “this too shall pass” messages.

The calligraphy is by a former Tibetan Buddhist monk, Tashi Mannox, who is an incredible artist.

And these are tattoos two through four since then–it’s been a rough year, and I’ve found tattoos to be semi-addicting.  The lotus flower was also at West 4th Tattoo.

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Lotus flower, representing beauty out of adversity, with semi-colon representing mental health awareness and suicide prevention

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Tibetan Green Tara prayer/mantra, which I think of as representing compassion in action

I went somewhere else for my third tattoo, the Green Tara prayer/mantra.  I regret that–Nick at West 4th was much better (was he 4x better? I’m not sure), in hindsight.  Definitely a case in point of you get what you pay for.  But you should probably regret something when you get tattoos, and there are worse things to regret.

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Tibetan Buddhist brahma vihara: loving kindness, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity, with flowers that have personal symbolic meaning.

And I went to yet another artist/studio for tattoo number four–Emma Grace at White Rabbit (also Fleur Noire).  I liked her execution a lot, but I had hoped she’d collaborate a bit more on the design.

 

 

Back to wishing I could draw: I’ve been feeling the urge for another tattoo, and the process of working with an artist would be SO much easier if I could draw. Instead, I rely on Microsoft office products and trying to describe changes to sample images… “so it’d be like this, except not….”. And I’m also defaulting to the Pinterest universe, which is huge, but hardly original. Sigh.

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Right now, I’m inspired by a line of Emily Dickenson poetry, “hope is the thing with feathers,” while trying not to do the same tattoo that everyone and her mother has done.

I never thought I’d be so eager to be stabbed with needles.

Not just a river in Egypt

Ah, escapism.  It doesn’t solve your problems, but it can hide you from them for a while.  Crafts do that for me.  (For that matter, so do tattoos, actual and hypothetical, but that’s a topic for another post.)  I mentioned before that I had a job interview coming up, which was this morning.  My current employer is going through some crazytown changes, so off I go into the wild blue yonder.

What I don’t believe I mentioned is my problem with anxiety.  For the most part, I manage it pretty well.  I read somewhere that anxiety is like experiencing failure in advance.  So you can imagine that job hunting and interviewing is a fairly stressful process, as it is for most people, I just dial it up a notch.  Right now, I’m not feeling so great about my interview, and I legitimately can’t tell if it’s all in my head, or if I really didn’t do that well.  The next week or so of waiting is really going to stink.

Obviously, the answer is to ignore everything and do crafts.

Of course, I already have several projects in the works.  My rug is coming along nicely:  It’s about 3 feet in diameter now, and I’ve moved on to incorporate a couple new shades of blue.  Pretty soon, I’m going to need a bigger table to continue working on it.  My roses and green quilt is about 60%-70% pieced together.   And I have the stalled baby gift quilt (really need to get a move on), and crib-sized quilt (slightly less urgent, but still…).

So clearly, I have plenty to work on.  And yet…  What I really want to do is try to make my own gravity blanket.  Have you seen them?  They are weighted blankets–usually about 10% of your body weight, and meant to help with anxiety, sensory processing disorders, and other stuff.  I’m told it’s like getting hugged by your blanket.

They’re also several hundred dollars, which just seems ridiculous.  I can get a couple of flannel sheets and weighted filler (e.g., Polyfil beads) on Amazon for $50.  I just need to figure out how to quilt the sheets into tiny tiny pockets, so that the filler doesn’t move around when the blanket is finished, and doesn’t break the needle of my sewing machine when I’m making it.  I’ve found some DIY patterns online, but they are all very basic grids, and I can’t help thinking there would be an awful lot of sloshing about of the filler “beads.”  Hmm.

I managed to restrain myself from buying stuff yesterday, based on the logic of my aforementioned projects in progress and the fact that I’ll be moving at some point in the not too distant future, but I have a feeling that restraint won’t last very long…

Pictures to come…

Preserving the end of summer—literally

If you’ve never had roasted peach butter, you haven’t really lived. I say that with all sincerity and hyperbole. There’s a fabulous recipe in the aptly titled, “Food in Jars.”

I discovered the world of canning through a college roommate, who has also been known to make her own kimchee. In my experience, it is in no way economically justifiable, but oh my goodness is it delicious! I’ve stuck to non-pectin recipes, but there are still so many. I adore access to tartfully amazing rhubarb butter year-round, made exactly how I like it. It’s fantastic on yogurt, ice cream, toast, muffins, brioche, oatmeal…

I keep trying to make a delicious recipe based on roasted cherry tomatoes, but I always end up snacking on them before the canning stage.

Also on my “some day” list (along with near infinite counter space) is a ginormous backyard where I can have both food and flower gardens, as well as room for the pup to run free.

 

She aspires to the #offleashlife. I aspire to be successful enough to give it to her 🙂.

Ode to stone fruit

Oh how I love thee.  When you are delicious.

Isn’t it so disappointing when you have what look like gorgeously beautiful peaches, plums, or whatever, you bite into one, and it’s all mealy?  Blech.

Thankfully, that’s not what happened.  I do feel a little bad baking fruit that is SO GOOD fresh, but on the other hand, I’d feel worse baking fruit that wasn’t good.

This rustic plum tart from Epicurious was so amazing.  Messy, juicy, flavorful, “tart” (ha!) and sweet.  It’s going to be gone very, very, quickly, and I’m not taking it to the office.

Someday, I will have a kitchen with so much counter space, I can leave appliances sitting out, instead of always packing them up, back up for storage.  I’m thinking of you, Mr. Food Processor, Ms. Stand Mixer, and Mr. Crockpot.   Since I switched to a Chemex, not even a coffee machine gets to live on my itty bitty counters.  Mr. Toaster is getting lonely.

 

 

Meditative crafting

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and my major accomplishments today include: walking the pup, drinking coffee, napping, and preparing for an upcoming job interview.  But most importantly, or at least, most fun, working on my braided rug.

It’s slow-going, but I’m enjoying the process immensely.  I get to bounce back and forth between the braiding and the coiling/sewing.  With the end of each strand of fabric I can decide what color to add in next.  With either braiding or sewing, it’s very straightforward and frees up enough of my mind to wander off in other directions, wrestle with dilemmas, practice some meditation mantras, and so forth.

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I do wish the sewing didn’t need to be done on a flat surface so I could cuddle up on the sofa.

Also handy: using strips from an old duvet cover (the center of the rug) as well as new fabric.  Even the new fabric wasn’t too expensive: I could hunt around for remnants and end of bolt sales.  Some patterns were kind of bleh, but the colors themselves quite pretty, so perfect for my purposes.

 

Soundtrack:

Stuff You Missed In History Class: “A Brief History of Redlining” (sad/embarrassing); “Sir Christopher Lee” (very cool); “History Mysteries Double Feature” (creepy and frustratingly unsolved)

Experiments are for learning

I’ve been piecing a pink and green quilt recently—which will henceforth be known as “the iPad ate the original pattern, but isn’t this pretty” quilt—and had an idea for the scraps.  (Did I mention I’m also working on a braided rug? I like to multitask.  Or rather, I like to start lots of things…)

Anyway.  I was at a local fabric shop, Gotham Quilts, and saw QUILTED rugs, which were basically like the traditional round braided rugs, except, well, quilted and not braided.  Also machine-sewn vs. by hand, as I’ve been doing it, partly on principle and partly because I’m not sure how.  But I liked how thin and streamlined these rugs were.  Not for rugs—I like a more cushy feel under my feet—but as placemats or trivets.

So I thought I could use the scraps from my pretty quilt to try it out, but make a “flatter”and looser braid to aid machine zigzag sewing, and a four-strand braid to make it faster (also I like the look).

It took about 20 minutes to realize it wasn’t working out.  Too much fraying, the braid was too thick and uneven, I could go on.   I was so disappointed, so convinced it was going to work.  I won’t make you suffer through attempts #2 through #4, just know each time I believed I’d fixed what went wrong before.   And I did.  Just not all of it.  I’ll get there.  Some day.

Originally, I was going to title this post, “Some experiments fail.”  Then I remembered that by definition that’s impossible.   Experiments are for learning. Sure, you might have a hypothesis you want to prove or confirm, but at the end of the day, I’ll count it as a win or time well spent if I figure something out, improved a skill, or discovered something to avoid in future 🤪.

 

This post’s soundtrack:

Stuff You Missed In History Class: “The Gallipoli Campaign” (tragic) and “The Green Children of Woolpit” (weird)

NPR news: Serena lost.  Other crazy things happened.

The Beatles said it best

I saw this painted on a closed shop in Spain at least ten years ago, and I’m so glad I took a picture.  Sadly, this was early in the digital era and it isn’t terribly high resolution, so once I got done cropping the ugly bits around it, well…

Anyway. Knitting has been an obsession of mine for years.  My mom taught me when I was little, and I picked it up again more seriously in college.  I had the delight my senior year of living with several knit-happy roommates. Our spring break trip was to Prince Edward Island (we’re also in love with Anne) and while there we visited a woolen mill and came home with bales of yarn. I still have some.

One of my favorite projects was the Lady Eleanor stole with some fabulous yarn from Taos,  New Mexico.

ladyeleanorstole3The entrelac pattern was intimidating initially, but once you get the hang of it, really quite easy.  Knotting the fringe, however, nearly did me in.  If you have any form of OCD or perfectionist leanings, beware.

I ended up keeping this project, but most of the time they’re gifts.  I like to think about how much (I hope) someone will enjoy something I’ve made for them (or his/her kid), something that might become a hand-me-down or heirloom someday.  Because all you knit is love.