Sunday, March 30, 2008


My favorite transformation right now is the one that happens when I pick up a pillowcase and a pair of scissors. Here is a link to the tutorial I learned from.

Saturday I scored a twenty-five cent pillowcase from the thrift store, green and white stripes with an olive-green hem. I couldn't help it---the woodpecker is taking a break and the pillowcase is beoming a tote bag RIGHT AWAY. This is like magic, yanno? You start off with something utterly flat and end up with a square bottom!!

I have it mostly finished; my last challenge is to do the decorating I have in mind without losing my mind, lol. There are four pieces of the hem left and I wish to use them to cover the strap ends after I secure the straps. Folding teensy-tiny hems and stitching them down is quite the challenge beause the fabric is layered and bulky; I may have to do the finishing by hand to get the look I want.

I've also done the first tote bag of a set that is red, blue, and green stripes with matching paisley straps and borders. The original tutorial calls for making the hem the inside bottom of the tote bag but it occurred to me last night that I can certainly do it the other way and make it the outside bottom, so the next one will have the paisley on the bottom to coordinate with the finished one that has the paisley at the top.

Yes, that is a stick by my front door. Doesn't everyone bring home sticks, stones, feathers and seashells? *cheeky grin*
My first shabby chic pillowcase tote was disappointing beause it was a little small, but then it surprised me by immediately becoming my purse, a lil lavender bag that I love a LOT and carry everywhere.
I have the companion pillowcase and am thinking of using it to make a coordinating box tote (or two). I love it that so many of my pillowcases came in sets!
Here is a link for the box totes. I don't have a zipper but was thinking about using button-and-loop closures. I have so many wonderful buttons! These are mother-of-pearl, square rather than round.

... am I gonna have fun or what?! *big grin*

I'm getting better at sewing straight seams and on the green-striped tote, I actually managed to sew a seam twice without too much variation! This is good because it reinforced the top of the bag and the straps. Once I master controlling where the straight seams go, I'll work on curved seams; who knows? Maybe my craft sewing will someday give me the skills to be successful at making my own clothes! Now THERE'S a transformation I've been looking forward to all my life. *smiling*

Thursday, March 27, 2008 thine own wings be true...

In her hot pursuit, Dear Reader, of a red paisley chicken with that thing on the top of a chicken head, Our Heroine has gathered edges, sewn preliminary seams, even--yes, we dare say it--turned a point or two before pinning the main body pieces together. Some intense concentration at the sewing machine, a little Cluster Stuff (from Morning Glory), and... ta daaa!

Here, Dear Reader, behold the beginnings of a... hmmm. That bears a striking resemblance... turn that around...

Yes. Well.

Despite her mortification at inadvertently colorizing one of the cartoon *hahahaHAAha!* icons of her childhood, Our Heroine bravely surges forward. Brown was never her favorite *hahahaHAAha!* color anyway. *hahahaHAAha!* Gamely, she invokes the timeworn... er, timeTESTED theory that if a little purple is bad, then a lot of purple will be very good, indeed. *rat-a-tat-tat-tat-TAT hahahaHAAha!*

Raiding her treasured cross-stitch supplies *hahahaHAAha!* and choosing a new needle to accomodate, Our Heroine invokes Purpleness to cover all raggedy stitching lines. She covers each seam with loving care, invoking Purpleness *hahahaHAAha!* all the while.

What's this, then? This needle was not bent when it came from the package.

No, surely it was not so beautifully curved before.


It would seem, Dear Reader, that in her zeal *hahahaHAAha!* to invoke Purpleness, Our Heroine has aimed for The Great Liberace but has inadvertently attracted the attention of Uri Geller, who has announced his presence upon our Red Paisley Chicken Stage by bending Our Heroine's needle. Welcome, welcome Mr. Geller! We had no idea that you were a fan of The Great Liberace, Mr. Geller, or of Purpleness, or even of colorized cartoon icons! *hahahaHAAha!*

*Management wishes herein to note that Mr. Geller's attention and participation in the creation of this Purple Prose are certainly within the Realm of Probabilities. *hahahaHAAha!* How far within the Realm, we cannot say; and yet in all fairness to Mr. Geller, we must say they are certainly within the Realm. His fandom for the Great One Management cannot comment upon, lacking all knowledge of such situations.... yet again we are compelled by fairness to Mr. Geller to point out this also is certainly within the Realm of Probabilities. The Great Liberace was, after all, beloved by millions, and why should Mr. Geller be arbitrarily excluded from that number? * *hahahaHAAha!*

And so, Dear Reader, Our Heroine carries on, lovingly invoking Purpleness over every seam, thinking fondly *hahahaHAAha!* of both The Great Liberace and Mr. Geller *hahahaHAAha!* when her thoughts wander to Gryph, and what Gryph *hahahaHAAha!* would say about her happy circumstances.

Our Heroine hangs her head.

*hrumph* Our Heroine sighs.

Our Heroine writes.

Dear Mr. Geller,

I apologize for inadvertently impugning your reputation and implying that you might not be a fan, after all, of weirdly embroidered purple woodpeckers. Please forgive me. You may have the purple woodpecker if you like. Please let me know where to send it.


I hope you don't live in Switzerland. I don't know how to mail things to Switzerland and if I send the bird by air, his wings will fall off from the flapping.

Ever so VERY so sincerely yours,

Purple Bird-maker


I'm keeping the needle.


Always be true to your own wings.... not try to force yourself to be a red paisley chicken (with that thing on the top of a chicken head) if indeed you are a sweet lil purple sparrow.

Here is yesterday's project, which I carried with me and stitched on the bus and at the bus stops as Gryph and I made our way to the post office with the leather bags and to the bus station with ticket money. Our reward was the library--I do so love the library!--for books, books on tape, and *ta-daa!* some magazines at the Friends of the Library store. Just can't beat ten cent magazines. This time they had a year's worth of Rubber Stampede! Lots of inspiration there, for sure!

Back to the chicken now.... I knew I would only have one chance at the red paisley, since the scarf is fairly small; so I thought I would make a prototype, work out the pattern first. Good thing, eh? If it didn't have "feathers" in its tail, I would think I had made a dolphin, lol!

The red paisley scarf is silk and even though I keep telling myself that it is just a fifty cent scarf, I cannot shake the fact that it is silk... I am too intimidated by that to take a chance on making a mistake. I used cotton for my prototypes.

Yes, prototypes, there is a second "chicken" in progress. We'll see how well it turns out, and how much redrawing has to be done on the pattern! This one has separate wings--I even remembered to flip the pattern and cut two wings backwards so they fit properly!--rather than soft-sculptured wings, and I am experimenting with making that thing on the top of a chicken head as an integral part of the body.

Yes, tis a joke; I do know the name of it... but hey... chickens DON'T have hair. *wink*

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In which Our Heroine manages to survive her weekend...sorta...

We last left you on Friday, Dear Reader, with the Self-Installing Cat Accessory, Module One completely oblivious to the reason for Our Heroine's displeasure with him. Read herein Our Heroine's further adventures and see how the tehnical problems engendered during the uninstall of Module One receded to their proper place in the scheme of her Stretched-to-the-Limits Weekend!


Friday, oy... I tried so hard to do everything. The day started out wrong... Lady decided to sleep in the bathroom Thursday night, and the radiators came on. By 1:20 Friday morning, she was panting so hard Gryph couldn't sleep, so I got up and came out to the living room. It was the only way to get Lady next to the open window, cuz she sleeps as close to me as she can get and refuses to sleep out here as long as I am in the bedroom. I stayed up three hours to be sure that Gryph got some good sleep. By then the place had cooled a little and I went back to bed. I was pretty tired when I got up and I REALLY didn't want to go anywhere, but I had promised our friend the bags and my mom that I would buy the bus ticket to come and see her, so I took a nap before lunch and then forced myself to go.

BUT before I took that nap, I wanted to check my email and finish breakfast. This is the part I already blogged about... damn would be so much easier to forgive him if the new keyboard worked properly, but the C key sticks and I am constantly backspacing and sticking in C's...grr.

So anyhow, after a frantic half hour cleaning things up from the Coffee-Fall, I took that nap, got up, got ready, forced myself out the door. I *so* did not want to go! But I swear I could never have predicted the way it would happen. My first stop was the hardware store for a roll of tape; I had the bags and the packing materials with me but forgot my tape. I remembered to get a bottle of water, too; I think that's the only thing that saved me, physically speaking.

I got downtown and immediately and unexpectedly had to detour to the library for the bathroom. *anxiety, I suppose* Then I walked over to the bank. My questions about the routing number change were unsatisfatorily answered by someone clueless--for the most important questions, he did go ask a boss, so I let it be. Then I continued on my way to the post office.

It was a long walk carrying the bags. I found myself grateful that I had taken them out of the box and put them in a plastic bag; much easier to carry that way. *remember that, she says with great irony*

I finally got to the post office, and the line was fifteen people long *eeep* so I looked around for the flat-rate priority boxes our friend had recommended. They were in a closed case, just displays...oy! I would have to get in line to get them before I could even pack one, and then I would have to get BACK in the miraculously self-replenishing line to mail them. Sheesh. But hey, I made it to the post office before they closed, even had forty-five minutes to spare, so no big deal, right?

Soooo there I was standing in line to get the boxes, and I suddenly realized that the mailing address... was on the box I took the bags out of to bring them. *gnash teeth*

Oh but wait! Twas okay, I had her phone number, I would just call and ask her addre-----my cell phone doesn't work right now. *gnash*

Wait! I could call Gryph at work and ask for her addy!!

There was no pay phone... *gnash gnash*

I got to the counter, I got my flat rate boxes, I was so rattled I forgot to ask the guy to weigh the bags...*gnash gnash, gnash*

I had to carry those darned bags all over downtown Wichita. And then I realized when I got a block or so away from the PO... I was lost. I had gotten all turned around. It happens; I am directionally dyslexic. I didn't panic, just kept reasoning things out until I came to a cross-street I recognized again.

Sooo I finally figured out which way to go to get back to the bank--all I wanted to do was go back to the city transit center and go HOME, yanno?--but I forced myself to walk all the way back to the bank, use the ATM, and get the money for the bus tickets since Greyhound won't take our debit card (no Visa logo). *remember that, she says with great irony*

Sooooo coming out of the bank, I realized I was lost again. *gnash* It took longer to figure out which way to head to get back to the cross streets that would take me to the bus station, but I finally quelled my rebellious spirits *lol* and headed that way. It was another long walk.

Soooooo the guy at the bus station spelled my name right. He routed me through Flagstaff going and coming, like I asked him to. He got me the travel dates that qualified for the lowest rate. He was very nice. Everything was hunky-dory and I thought my travails were ever-so-mercifully completed...........right up to the very end, when he turned and said, "$174, please."

What? It was supposed to be $154!

"Weekend rates."

Huh? *inredulous look* "But I'm traveling on a WEDNESDAY."

"You're buying the ticket today; it's Friday. Weekend rates."

I had in my possession $155 specifically for bus fare, and Greyhound does not take my debit card. I was exhausted, I had pushed myself to my limits, I still had to carry those *by now, expletive deleted* leather bags around.... and I knew that I would have to come back on Tuesday *if I could* and do everything all over again.

I managed not to cry until I got outside. I did NOT get lost--thanks be--so I caught the bus and got home about three minutes before Gryph did... and then I burst into tears all over again.

After I was suitably soothed, I thought everything would be okay, turned on the computer.... and discovered that letting the keyboard dry out wasn't enough to fix the damage.

Sooooo I knew I would have to go to the Big Gray Box store Saturday for a new one. *sigh--yeah, this is the point where tears just don't get it anymore, and Our Heroine resorts to the rueful smile--aaannnnd gets lost in a good book for the rest of the evening*

SOOOO on Saturday my tired feet and I went to the thrift store... Nope, no keyboards *still had to go to the Big Gray Box* but I did pick up three fifty cent scarves and a couple of twenty-five cent books!

Fifty cent scarves!! and right after I had finished Scrap Bunny I told Gryph the next thing I wanted to make was a red paisley chicken. Okay, so I was deliberately being outrageous just to get a laugh... but then the idea was lodged in my head and wouldn't go away, and now I have finally found red paisley! Plus, yanno, a little peach for a trial run. Hey, I thought it was A Good Omen, yanno? Didn't know it was A Consolation Prize, sheesh.

*here Our Heroine pauses a moment to consider whether scarf fumes might be as potent as cotton fumes* Only one way to find out! *eyebrow waggle*

Sooooo I scored at the thrift store, and after a fun five minute browse at the new antique store, I caught the bus downtown and then to the Big Gray Box: Mission--new kb and a new printer cable.

I blazed through that Big Gray Box and got in the shortest line with X-Acto blades, thread, kb and cable in my hands; only one person ahead of me and six minutes to spare! But yanno... I missed the bus anyhow. Slow cashier. *OYYYYYYY*

SOOOO I went back into the store and did some shopping, looked for things we have been needing and can't get at the hardware or grocery store. Didn't find most of them but I did find more twisty flourescent light bulbs which was good because our electric bill is double what it was in the old apartment and we have to save *somehow* plus I like the brighter, whiter light, helps my depression and is so good for craftwork!

Sooooo I caught the bus back, walked the dog.... and found a round kitchen table-top in the trash. *shocked look*

Soooo I took the dog inside and went back to rescue the table; nearly killed myself pulling it out of the trash bin--thanks be the legs were just stacked against the garage door!--got it home and cleaned up and realized it didn't have any washers or hex nuts. Well, I had to have them--I wanted to surprise Gryph with a fait accompli, have the table all set up and fixed up.

Soooooo I went to the hardware store and the grocery store, came home; the contact paper was fine and the washers were perfect... but the nuts were the wrong size. *shoot!*

Sooooo I went back to the hardware store, and on the way I found a BIG old-fashioned printer cart (the kind with the shelf slot for the continuous-feed paper!!) on castors and in really good shape, just sitting in an alley! It was still there on my way home with the new bigger hex nuts--yanno, I got the next size bigger ones cuz the "coarse thread" ones were ugly; the metal on the table fittings was shiny and so surely they wouldn't have used ugly hex nuts when the table was new, right? *remember that, she says with great irony*

Sooooo hanging on to my prized new hex nuts, I pushed and pulled that behemoth printer cart three blocks through alleys, across streets, down sidewalks... got it all the way to the sidewalk in front of our building... and snapped off a castor.

I did not cry. I cussed.

Soooo I managed to get the thing up the steps and into the building, all the way down the hall and into our apartment. It was a trick, getting it in past the table and not letting any cats out, but I managed. It was even bigger trick getting it cleaned up, manuevring it into position behind the puter desk, and then after seventeen bazillion tries, getting the castor glued back on. I slipped the flat rate boxes under it *they might as well make themselves useful for something, eh?* along with a magazine to keep the weight balanced while the glue dried--good thing, too, cuz you know how particle board is, and the piece didn't set up properly
after all. Sheesh.

Soooo then I tried the new hex nuts on the table legs... and they were the wrong size again. Not only that, it was after 9 pm and the store was closed... I was sooooo disappointed! The table didn't get finished but it was for the best because I was quickly losing the ability to stand by myself. Oy, eh? And Gryph came home not to a wonderful more organized place, but to a mess. *sigh*
*once again, Our Heroine retreats to the safety of a good book for the rest of the evening*

Sunday I repaired the table top and installed my new surface---two layers of contact paper, lol, only the best for this girl--and Monday night we went back to the hardware store and got the proper size hex nuts. The UGLY proper size hex nuts. Who knew?

This is the table as I covered the edges. The gold metal-looking pieces are actually the wood skirt.

I was so excited when we finished the table. I laid a piece of leather out to begin a new bag, walked over to get the pattern, stopped to talk to Gryph... turned around..... Self Installing Cat Accessory, Module Two, all curled up and snoozing soundly.

Yanno, I didn't have the heart to disturb her. I reclaimed the leather after she woke up.

Here is Module Three, claiming a spot. Notice optional Camera Flash Eye Enhancement has been installed as well. *grin*

I really did too much, and my knees are both just as bad today as they were over a month ago. I can feel the swelling and the weakness. *sigh* I really pay for being physically active. It hasn't stopped me from looking to see if someone has thrown away bookshelves... a recliner... a dresser. *wry smile* Hey, it worked in Phoenix... ya never know!

I didn't make it out the door today. Here's hoping three days of comparative rest will do the trick, and Gryph and I can get to the post office *WITH the address!!* and the bus station tomorrow.

Take care of yourself, Dear Reader, and I most SINCERELY hope your week is better than my weekend was! *wry smile* But if it's not, may you find pleasant dreams to match my red paisley chicken, and a sense of accomplishment to match my new kitchen table!

Hi, Pamela!

I wasn't sure if you would find my reply if I left it in the comments, so I thought I would answer you here.

You asked, "I do love your leather bags. Where do you ship them to and how did you figure out how to market them? I am inspired by your and Gryph's ingenuity about starting a home buisness. I am in the same ball park, looking for something I can do at home."

A friend who has a costume business offered me her scraps for quilting, and Gryph her leather scraps. We were talking about it and she said if Gryph would be interested, she had lost her supplier for leather belt pouches and she would take what we made on consignment. So of course we jumped on that, lickety split! Our friend already has a website (Twin Roses Designs ), so the marketing is already in place.

We're finding a certain amount of marketing in word-of-mouth, too; a couple people have already asked for bags and we're thrilled about that!

Best to you in finding a "homemade business" that makes your heart sing; I know one is out there and you will find it. I think it takes a certain amount of introspection, yanno? Looking inward to see what it is that you might be doing that other people would like----and then it takes the courage to actually START doing it. Once you get started, you'll naturally work through your doubts and then you'll be okay!

Blessings to you!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

just add coffee...........

Gryph went off to work Friday.

Baby Quilter grabbed some breakfast and sat down to read email.

Self-Installing Cat Acessory Module One initiated installation in the vicinity of Quilter's breakfast.

Quilter objected. Installation terminated.

Module One objected with feet during uninstall. Desktop objects kicked over.

Quilter observed Domino Effect, picked many objects up from floor.

Coffee began to show up in odd places. Quilter observed Gryph's mostly empty coffee cup on side; oh no! Quilter picked up coffee cup, ran for towel.

Toooooooooooo Laaaaate. Quilter returned with towel only to see coffee-waterfall pouring over edge of desk INTO keyboard. Coffee cup had NOT been mostly empty!

*Quilter's reaction deleted to protect the innocent and those with sensitive systems, as well as anyone who thinks Quilter might be a nice person OR those who think Quilter does not cry*

Quilter has run many errands since that inauspicious moment--including one to obtain new keyboard.

No quilting has happened.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

A matter of balance

Been doing a lot of thinking about who I am and what I need; I made a long livejournal post about it. I've copied it on the bottom of this post because it's germane to my journey as an artist.

In the meantime, this is my latest bag, the perfect size to hold a cell phone and keys, or to hold a digital camera. I had to lighten the pic up with my photo program to make the color more realistic and the stitches visible. Dunno how long it takes to get really good at this craft; I see major improvement already but dang! so far to go yet!

Gryph is almost finished with the sixth bag and then they will be in the mail and my sewing machine will come back out. *grin* I have MISSED it! We won't stop on the leather bags, but I will add sewing fabric back into my life, cuz yano... I have scrap bunnies and drawstring bags and PIECING to do! Woooohooooo!!!!

A matter of balance

People with fibromyalgia discover pretty quickly that their sense of balance has changed. Sometimes just walking without tripping over anything is a challenge, and walking without walking into anything is impossible. Sometimes standing in one place is even harder than walking. When one's sense of balance is off, one becomes grateful for walls, furniture, anything one can touch to regain equilibrium. The wall in a narrow hallway or kitchen can become an intimate friend; the edges of sofas, tables, chairs can become the recipients and safeguards of one's vulnerabilities.

Finding balance can be tricky in other ways when one has fibromyalgia. Treasured activities become limited and sometimes impossible; things which others take for granted now take major effort. Fibromyalgia leads one to be wary of making promises or even casual agreements, for the possibility is not only ever-present but strong that one will be waylaid with pain or exhaustion on the way. One comes to prioritize activities, "how much pain am I willing to endure not only today but also tomorrow and the rest of next week in order to do this? How much will I get back from this; will it be worth losing the rest of my activities for a week or so?"

People who have not dealt with fibromyalgia (or other chronic conditions) don't tend to understand that every action has to be weighed against guaranteed consequences. They often feel rejected and do not understand that it is not a rejection, just a physical limit that cannot be gotten past.

I have not only fibromyalgia but also carpal tunnel syndrome. I've noticed the kitchen wall is becoming ever more my friend this past week, and sleep is ever more elusive. Things in alarming quantities are dropping out of my hands. My balance is off and must be regained. There are things I must do, things I want to do... and things I love which I must not do.

Moving in with Gryph gave me my life back in many ways. The artist, the craftsperson in me are both awake and feeling a need for expression. I can do today what I have not been able to do for years--and I want to--but it takes time. I move slowly; I am constantly picking back up all the things which somehow magically tumble to the floor when my unbalanced self comes near them; my stamina is reduced. These facts mean that doing what I want to do is not going to be easy. I will have choices to make about which activities are worth it, yanno?

In looking for balance in my life, I have seen that making my dreams means I have to give up things which don't move me forward, things which cause me distress, things which take too much time for little return, things I might want to do but which cause me intense pain. In order to return to the person I was, I have to let go the things which filled my time when I was unable to be a "maker." The person who crocheted fine doilies and table runners, the person who painted wildlife, the person who made holiday ornaments, the person who did fine beadwork---this person did not spend much time online. When I look for balance, I see that there are communities which sustain me as an artist, and communities which, however much they may have sustained me in the past, today cost me a great deal of effort.

It's time for me to admit this and do something about it. It's time for me to regain my balance. Last night I recognized that giving up sleep and housework for these activities is not an acceptable compromise. I must sleep, and I must give sleep the time it needs to work for me. I must also keep up with the housework, for I have discovered the bare minimum standards that make it possible to live my life the way I wish to and lately I have not met those minimums. The quality of all our lives is diminished when I put off the work which needs to be done; even the cats are distressed.

In my tiredness, I am also putting off the "making" I need to do, those activities which make me feel like myself again. I have lived my life for years feeling "not real" because I was not able to be the person I am inside, and now at last I feel real again. I want to LIVE, now; I want to experience fully this rebirth of myself--I want to MAKE.

This means I must choose. I must spend less time online and more time sleeping, keeping up with the household, and making my dreams. It is time to let go of that which costs me too much, time to make more room for that which sustains and rebuilds me. It is time to say goodbye to the past, and to move confidently into the future... kitchen wall at the ready, of course. *wry smile*

This means I won't checking [my other websites] for a while. My wrists are not able to cope with the typing and scrolling I have been doing and they must rest; I must find the balance and withdraw for healing. You can find me here or you can email me (b-bit AT earthlink DOT net). If you would like to talk on the phone, drop me a note with your number. I have free long distance. *smile*

Thank you for your friendship over the years. Please understand, I am not rejecting you--I have come up against a physical limit and must deal with it. This is why I posted about not knowing whether to renew my [website] membership or not; I was weighing the good that I get from being active on the forum against the costs. Computer time is extraordinarily costly to my hands right now, and I need these hands for other things. To find my balance, I must reduce computer time. I cannot forego my email, of course, and you are most welcome to write! But I must give up the majority of my websites.

Blessings to us all,Cath

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bag Pics

Hello, hello, hello!! I did not really fall off the ends of the Earth!! Here I am a little late but with the promised bag pics!

Last Wednesday was my birthday (50, wooohoooo! I made the half-century mark!!) and I haven't been online too much since then. We finished the bags and have started the next couple, and I have learned a little about how NOT to photograph them, lol.... this is about "as good as I can do" but I still haven't managed to get them quite, er, um... level, for lack of a better term. Oh well, at least you can see that we finished them! *grins*

This is what we start with, a flat pile of pieces... nothing much to look at...

Here I am holding a partly finished bag up for an experimental photo. You can see that the bag has a double-layered back, with green leather inside. What you cannot see is that the needle fell and the thread is dangling as I valiantly attempt to hold the bag steady for Gryph's camera.

Um, yes... what you see next IS a Self-Installing Cat Accessory with Optional Camera-Flash Eye Enhancement. This is Module One, ready to spring into action and plunder the irresistibly sweet booty he has found.

Hahaaaa, he caught it! The Mighty Pirate Hunter with Thews of Steel and Claws of Fish-hook has struck again! No dangling thread be ever safe again, me hearties! aaarggh...

"aaarggh" is right--I wasn't DONE with that bag yet! Luckily for me, un-installation of Piratical Cat Module was successful with no damage to either Module One OR the thread. *whew*

Here are the finished bags. This is the smallest green bag--it's the one with the "snake" on the backside of the strap. We tested it out; it holds a cell phone and a tri-fold wallet easily, plus keys.

This next one is the medium green bag. I confess I think of it as a "Kilroy was here" bag, lol. It is big enough to hold the above plus a checkbook, tissues, sunglasses, etc--about the size of a medium-ish purse.

This is the double-layered medium bag, finished. This bag was done with all seams to the inside, and I've discovered that I don't like them that way; it takes away some of the roominess in the bag and distorts the shape a lot. BUT in the photos, it looks better than the others... clearly I have a LOT to learn about how to photograph leather bags!

It was also a LOT of work to run the strap through the flap and have it measure out properly to both hang from a belt and keep the bag closed. We ended up using heavier leather to get the weight and strength we needed for this bag.

This last one is our biggest bag, ten inches wide at the middle by eleven inches long, and two and a half inches deep. It is easily as big as a large purse, and is made from much heavier leather than the other bags. We got three this size from the hide we bought at the Leather Factory. Two more are in progress.

So there ya have it, our progress so far on the Leather Front. Our goal is to get two of each size made before we mail them out. My fingers are crossed for this week!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Punching leather

Sounds weird, doesn't it? Punching leather... what it really is, is hammering leather. You take a sharp metal hole punch and hammer it into the leather. I've discovered that I can do a one-hole punch, although I cannot handle the four-hole punch. One beat with the hammer and the punch goes all the way through the leather and into the punching board below.

Good thing Gryph has that punching board, too, or the desk would be a sorry mess!

It's hard on the ears and I am online right now because I needed a break. But hey, I don't feel like a failure anymore! I *can* do this!

Pics will come later of the bag I am working on. It's the softer leather with the double-layered back. It's big enough to hold anything a small purse would hold, tissues, glasses, keys, phone, checkbook, etc, so it would certainly do as a replacement for men's pants pockets.

That's how these bags got their start, yanno? I would have thought (in my taking-today-for-grantedness) that they were for women---but not so! The big purse-looking bags were for men in Medieval times, and when women used bags, they were smaller, daintier, quite often cloth rather than leather, and were also quite often hidden under their overgowns. Funny how fashions change... men got pockets and women got purses.

The one Gryph is working on is VERY much like a purse, mostly because the leather is that weight but also because it's bigger. I like it a lot. I'll take pics of that one tonight, too.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Processing Queen

A friend's advice when I mentioned my concerns:

"In a bad economy, make simple utilitarian but well made leather work. Make it in more tempting price ranges. Save the over the top for good times or when you have a big reputation."

My reply:

"Thank you for the advice about the leatherwork. That seems very reasonable, and of course since we are just getting started and I am a complete newbie at this craft, plain is what we are doing!

"I was really discouraged last night; I had planned on five bags from the hide we bought but didn't allow for sizing up the bags, and only got three. They're going to be very, very nice--it's a wonderful piece of leather!--but we needed five. I can make at least one small one and the remnants are making sturdy straps for the other bags, but dang, that was discouraging. Luckily, we still have the softer garment weight leather and I am doubling up on the back and bottom to make those bags sturdier. They are the intermediate size and I hope they will come out the way I envision!"

Further comments for yanno, blogly documentarian purposes *grin*:

I actually flared up my carpal tunnel trying to make the holes for stitching last night, and that was a huge part of my discouragement. My wrists are better today but I am being careful with them, and Gryph is doing all the hole punching now.

I was amazed to find out that even Gryph's muscles cannot get the smaller punch through the thick leather, and yanno... I don't feel like such a failure now.

Here we come to the crux of my matter, and get right back to the reason for this blog: to deal with ALL the parts of "making dreams" including the things that have kept me from making dreams in the past. I don't know why hitting obstacles seems to always induce this sense of being a failure; I mean come on now, we aren't even talking about thinking I have failed in a particular project--which I haven't yet, come to think of it!--we are talking about a part of my identity changing from "successful person" to "failure as a person" and doesn't that seem like... oh, I don't know... an OVER-REACTION or something? *wry smile*

Well, you can't change things you can't see, and now that I can see this one, maybe I can process it to death, get a handle on it and regain my perspective, eh? *eyeroll at self* hey, they don't call me a Processing Queen for nothing... *wry laugh*

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Leather bags

Leather bag pics, as promised! It was absolutely AMAZING what a difference having the right tools made; the back half of this bag has been nowhere near the effort the front half was.

It starts with a pile of flat pieces. I forgot to take pics of my bag before I got sewing; this is another bag of the same shape but a larger size.

This is the front of the bag, with the strap holder stitched on. I don't like this part of the design and I need to study the pattern and refine it. It did make a handy needle holder, though. You can see that I have not yet finished the stitching on the left side of the bag.

Here's a side view. That flat pile of pieces has gained some volume!

I shall now endeavor to reproduce for you my calm satisfaction as I sewed the back onto the sides and the piece suddenly took shape:

"GRYPH GRYPH GRYPH GRYPH!!! Come!!! comecomecomecomecomecome c'mere c'mere c'mere c'mere!!!!! oh LOOKlooklooklooklook LOOK!!!! Oh! OHHH!!!!"

*Houston, we have achieved Volum-age!*

Back side of the bag. This is, of course... The End.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Venturing out of my comfort zone

I always tell people that I live in Wichita the Charming. Tis true, you know. Where I live, a couple miles from Old Town, the neighborhoods are filled with Old homes and apartment buildings. I have found sidewalk squares stamped with the builder's name and date--1910, 1913, 1923--and the Victorian and Craftsman style homes are just wonderful to wander amongst, block after block of old-time architecture and charm. Even the "tall" apartment building that I live in is only three stories; the buildings are on a very human scale, and that makes them accessible and even more charming. And the trees!! The trees are huge and tall and full of life and vitality. I've never seen such trees in a city before!

Going west, Old Town is the restored warehouse area, full of wonderful little businesses in buildings that date back to the 1800s and somehow survived a massive city-wide fire in the late 1880s. Farther west, downtown is full of WONDERFUL buildings with great architectural detailing on the outsides and incredible interiors--much taller than my apartment building and yet still somehow on a human scale.

Going east, one passes an incredible variety of small stores--antique stores, gift stores, decorating stores, bookstores. After that one comes to the "high rent district" which is full of large homes on huge lots with lush and detailed landscaping. Continuing on east, the high rent district gives way to more modern suburbs, still nice, still lush, and then one arrives at the mall where Gryph works. It's one easy bus ride from the front of our building to the mall and a similar easy bus ride back home again.

Within four blocks of our building are the grocery store ("pharmacy coming soon!"), the laundromat, two thrift stores, the yarn store, several antique shops, a bead shop, the movie theater, multiple music stores, a magic store(!), two book stores, and the cross stitch store.

Going west, again in one easy bus ride, Old Town has our favorite pizza place, another bead store, a scapbooking store, several gift and book stores, and a multitude of places we haven't yet explored; plus museums, multitudes of restaurants, and the restored theater. Farther on, downtown has the bus station, our bank, the library, museums, a park, another thrift store, the post office, all among multitudes of other businesses.

I could easily live my life here in Wichita the Charming, without a car, close in to everything, and never miss the rest of Wichita--especially with pizza delivery services, lol--but today I stretched my comfort level quite a lot. We took three buses in the biting wind to go to western Wichita, out of the historic districts and into the newer, blander, dirtier, uglier areas. Destination: The Leather Factory.

It was weird, especially since the journey back home involved different buses. I certainly saw a lot of Wichita I didn't expect to see and don't really need to see again. It caused me a lot of anxiety, not knowing which bus to take to get back home, and not knowing if we would have to wait in that biting wind for extended amounts of time. Luckily, we made our transfers with no trouble.

I cannot say it was no trouble in The Leather Factory. It was quite a lot of trouble, actually. The sales staff were amazingly helpful and the more helpful they were, the more trouble we got in.

This is not what I expected. I expected we would go and spend a little money, get a few things, and continue on with our day.... but no. The Leather Factory had other plans for our money and it ate it amazingly quickly, let me tell you, thereby derailing my plans for any other shopping.

We did get what we had gone for: a couple punches to make the leather bag sewing MUCH easier and more thread. It was what happened after that which derailed my budget... the hide which was on sale, the stencils which were on sale, the scissors which were on sale (and are a great value, I do have to say, especially since they will spare my quilting scissors), the membership card which gets us the discounts... oy.

My comfort level was hovering somewhere around $50 or $60... we spent nearly $150 and now the tax refund is GONE. *eeep!* It isn't that we won't use everything we bought, and fairly quickly at that--it's the (unexpected) size of our commitment to this project. I had been at a hobby level, I think, "oh, we'll make a few bags inexpensively..." and today we made a jump to "we ARE making an investment in this." Yikes! What if we can't make a go of it?! What if it doesn't work?!

I have to back off and remind myself--we are not behind on any bills, the paychecks cover the bills and food, I have a little grocery money left to tide us over until payday--we DID have the right to spend that money on anything we chose. I just didn't expect it to be this.

I have never made money consistently from what I make, even though I have sold things along the way since I was a teen and set my first candles out at a yard sale. I have never before sustained the momentum and made a going concern from what I make; I have never fulfilled that dream for myself.

This is really scary. Technically, I am helping Gryph... but yanno, one of the first two bags that will be done is mine. I downsized the bag pattern, chose the leather, cut it, and am constructing it step by step from scratch as a trial effort, a sample. I suspect I will be making more and more of them if my hands and wrists hold out. Certainly I am keeping track of expenses. I am in this thing--and we are making a bigger commitment than I had intended to make.

I am making a bigger commitment than I had intended to make.

It scares me.

Pics of the bags tomorrow. *wry smile*

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

We had a party!!

It was a long haul getting ready for it, I'll tell you! but Sunday afternoon we had a party in our new place, and there were chairs---no one had to sit on the bed!!--and floor space--no "goat trails" between boxes!!! I was so excited!!

It was a really small party but that's okay cuz we could really only handle a small party at that point... but we're going to do it again! We're going to have people over again!! Ohhhhh it is so much better to live in a one-bedroom than in a studio!!! I feel like our lives, our true lives, have finally begun! Now we can come out of our cocoon (Gryph called it "the cave," living in that studio) and live like everyone else, having friends over, having floor space.... walking without tripping over or falling into box after tub after box, lol... and no one ever has to be in our bedroom cuz now it's separate from the living room, like it should be. *happy girl!*

I've been having much fun making things. I'm going to make at least one more scrapbunny, and I also am going to make more rice bags. I didn't finish the chair cover yet but it is on the list of things to do, along with two crocheted scarves, my ever-present teeny Star Wheel motifs, the cross stitch (it took a while to settle on the right fabric for practicing), and beading.

Oh! And I started another strip-piecing project; no idea what it might turn into, just had to start the strip-piecing. *grin*

Something new has landed in my lap too--leather! Right now we are experimenting, making leather bags and pouches. No pics yet--they'llbe coming after the experimental phase is over, I think, lol...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Where to keep your teensy scraps and thread ends

So every once in a while as you are busily strip piecing, you come to a piece of fabric that lays there in quiet rebellion and absolutely REFUSES to measure out in any reasonable manner--say, maybe, a remnant of your most favoritest of all time fat quarter--and no matter what you do, you know there will be waste on both sides of the piece, and it just doesn't make sense... and then it dawns on you, this fabric doesn't WANT to be part of a strip pieced fabric--no, it wants to be something else. And you know exactly what it wants to be, without words, because your efforts to work with and understand this fabric have allowed the cotton fumes full access to your brain. You and the fabric are now One in the creation of something NOT strip pieced. *insert fumely-induced Zen-ness here... ohm*

Now the fabric submits gladly, even eagerly, as you measure and cut.

Yes, my dear ones, I took pictures. *grin*

Step one in my day: uninstall the Self-Installing Cat Accessory, Module Two. This one is Cleo, and her eyes are not actually blue; they're green/gold--but she was actually this cute. *wink*

Step two: Cut fabric into squares, two 5", two 3", two 2.5", and one 3" from contrasting fabric (that you pulled out of your scrap bag!); also cut rectangles, two 1.5" x 5" and two the same size or a little larger from the contrasting fabric.

Step three: round off the corners on each square piece (or cut into actual circles, if you're that ambitious).

Step four: Run gathering threads around each circle, and gather into a bag shape--turn right side out if necessary.

Step five: Gather your stuffing--in this case, a ziplock bag of cut-off corners and miscellaneous scraps too small for me to do much with, plus lots of thread ends--and stuff that baby, honey! Do the 5" piece first.

Step six: Sew it shut. Repeat for other 5" squircle.

Step seven: Sew them together. Do this at the very center first, and then sew another round or two of stitches just a little farther out. Use a running stitch that goes into each piece alternately, top, bottom, top, bottom, and pull your stitches tight so that the fabric comes together and covers them completely. Your goal is to have the join be both sturdy and invisible.

Step eight: "Can I say that looks strange?"

"Yes. But don't you dare say what it looks like, or I'll be forced to quilt a toilet seat cover."

*laughing* "I won't say what it looks like--I promise!!"


"That looks really strange..... what is it?"

*turning piece every which way, looking for up* "A head and body....there, see? this part is the head."

"Uh... okay." *vamooses back to the Land of Sanity, where one forces a lil frog to spit colored balls into a never-ending chain of more colored balls, always striving to make the frog spit faster so one can set new records: Zuma!*

Step nine: Take picture with spool of thread for scale. Head and body fully joined, and turned to the best side for the front.

Step ten: Gather and stuff the 3" squircles for back feet; sew them shut. Sew each one to the front of the body, down low. Take picture with front feet still unstuffed and on ironing board behind piece--realize it looks like Piglet that way. File thought for future reference. We are not making Piglet today.

Even though we could if we REALLY wanted to. *nods*

Step eleven: Take a lil break, stretch, relax... be back at the ironing board in five seconds cuz it's all coming together now!

Step twelve: Gather, stuff and sew on the front feet (2.5" squircles). This gets tricky--you run out of room by the last foot and have to angle the needle, bend the feet and/or body, do whatever it takes to get that foot ON there securely. In this case, I chose to put the foot down onto the bottom foot and sew it to the body and foot both, as much for room as for cute.

Step thirteen: Admire! To scale, even.

Gather, stuff, and sew on the tail. Don't worry if it seems too contrasty; the ears will fix that.

Step fourteen: Make ears. This is way faster and easier on the sewing machine than by hand, but either works. Put fabric right sides together and sew in a popsicle stick shape: long sides, rounded top. Leave the bottom open for turning.

If you don't trim the seams or clip the corners, your ears will not need stuffed--but you will probably curse me as you struggle to turn them right sides out.

I certainly cursed me.

It WAS worth it, though; they had just enough body on the edges and plenty of droopiness in the center--hard to accomplish with stuffing in the way.

Step fifteen: Gather the insides of the ears (the contrasty fabric). Do this with the alternating running stitch again, left, right, left right of an imaginary center line. Be very careful not to catch the backs of the ears in your stitches. You want to make the fronts smaller than the backs so the ears can be shaped. Try to make some parts of your gathers with very tiny stitches and some parts with long stitches.

Odd though it seems to me, the tiny stitches are the straight parts of the ear and the long stitches are the bendy foldy parts. If you experiment, you can make the ears twist, bend, fold, droop, or stand upright.

Note the Thread Heaven box--the thread twisted and tangled terribly until I raided my cross-stitch n beading supplies for the Thread Heaven. I am so sold on this product! It works miracles!

Step sixteen: Sew the ears to the head. If you set them wide apart you magnify the Cute Factor. Sew them like you joined the head and body, alternating stitches and pulling them tight so the fabric makes them invisible.

You can make them stand more upright by sewing the back down securely a little higher up than you sew the front.

Experiment with the ears; sometimes they look absolutely adorable if you face them down and let them droop off to the sides, sometimes they need to stand up and face forward or to the sides. Each different position will change the personality; choose the one that most appeals to you, but don't let it break your heart if it won't sew on that way. Sometimes the magic happens when the ear DOESN'T cooperate, yanno?

Step seventeen: Adding the second ear. This is where the personality really begins to shine!

Step eighteen: Almost done!!

Step nineteen: nobunny is ever fully dressed without a bowtie.

Experiment with various colors until you find the one that makes your bunny sing. Sometimes it takes two or more. I used white and golden orange together to make a closer match to the golden yellow stripe in the fabric.

Step twenty: Feel the thrill of job satisfaction--a job well done! Know that your teensiest scraps now have a home. Ah scrapbunny, how I love you!

Step twenty-one: Give him away. *grin* scrapbunny has a good home on a work monitor now, and every time Gryph looks at the work puter, my love will shine out. It's a good thing!