I Am a Mighty Maker of Things!

Originally uploaded by Big Blue Mess

My grandmother sewed, my father sewed (and does carpentry and codes and is a professor and volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and gardens and has a bee hive (with actual bees, not the hairstyle – well, not around mixed company) and studies Permaculture), my step-mother sews/draws/paints/takes photographs, and one of my good friends bakes/paints/sews/eats copious amounts of cupcakes (a skill, honest) and is a photographer while married to a sculptor/cartoonist/painter/artist type. Jay’s family sew, knit (including Jay), crochet, fly (performing aerobatics), create delicate/intricate pieces of woodwork, build things. Overachievers – the lot of them.

I blog.

Until Saturday when I cracked open my sewing machine that my parents sent me for Chirstmas and I put my birthday gift card to use on fabrics. I have now successfully crafted my very first purse.

I am a MIghty Maker of Things! Tremble before me world, I have thread! Make room family and friends, I am joining your illustrious crafty ranks. Err… I promise not to take up too much room.

Midsummer Update

I think we can all agree that this site is mostly a means for my family and friends and friends of my family and family of my friends to check-in periodically.  Of course, some of you cheat a bit and check-in on me without letting me know what’s going on with you, so I look forward to YOUR updates to appear in my email over the next week or so.  Now if you feel like I’m talking directly to you, then I probably am unless your name happens to be DeAnne and she gets a special shout-out for sending regular emails.  In other words, if your name didn’t just appear on the list of “DeAnne”, I’m talking to you.  In fact, you should stop reading right now and start typing a nice little “hello” followed with some bits about what you’re up to.  Yes, I know you’re the busiest little monkey at the zoo, but you’re wasting valuable writing time trying to work out how you’d prefer to be a panther, an ocelot or some other cuter, sleeker, or even nobler zoo creature and taking exception to the monkey remark.  Although, now that your brain is spinning that’s not a half bad start to your email.  “Dear Beth, I feel I’m more of a Chilean Flamingo than a generic monkey – suited more for lawn decoration than swinging from trees.”   

Back to the updates – here we go:   

My First Reversible Skirt (looks very stylish over jeans & with better lighting)

Sewing: I took another sewing class.  This one was the reversible wrap skirt.  My biggest achievement: remaining upright the entire class (no spills on the floor) and therefore no histrionics on my part.  I would add “my skirt” to that list, but we’ll just have to write it off as a learning experience.  Fortunately, the bits that I had to fix after many quality moments with a seam ripper, will hide beneath a blouse (at least that’s how I plan to wear it).  A couple of the gals in class were thinking ahead and figured out that they could use the same pattern to make cute aprons.  I’m sorry guys, I’m not a cutesy apron kind of girl.  I wasn’t raised by June Cleaver.  I think pearls are over the top.  Therefore, none of you will be receiving cute aprons for Christmas.  I’m sorry.  I also want to re-state for the record that I find rick-rack abhorrent; it horrifies me.   

Toastmasters: I joined.  Well, I was followed by the club’s president who said it was his mission to add me to the ranks of his club and talked about my easy-going nature so I gave him a check.  (I’m a serious sucker for flattery.) I’m still trying to convince myself this is a great idea.  The folks in the group are really great – they talk about how it’s a supportive family, but I’m trying to decide if it feels like “my” family.  Right now, I feel like the weird guest brought along by some well-intentioned dorm mate – the one whose dysfunctional family didn’t have plans for the holidays.  I nearly had a stroke last week when I saw on the schedule that I was supposed to make a speech in two weeks.  Thankfully, that’s now been postponed and I just have to give an invocation at that time.  Jay suggested I could get up and invoke the right to remain silent.  I like the way he thinks.  On the positive side, my mentor said, “Beth, if you go up there for your first speech, stare at everyone, nod and run away, that’s ok.  We just want you to get up there.”  WHEW! I can do all of that.   

Improv:  Improv starts next weekend!  I’m hoping something in improv will help me not fall apart in Toastmasters come speech time.   

Writing: I finally wrote my first piece of fiction for the writing group (as noted by Jay, it was not Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms – I’ve been beating him soundly for days after his “Beth lamenting her work” impersonation).  I wasn’t at the last meeting for feedback, so I’m going to pretend that for a first effort it received a hearty and sincere round of applause.  Big thanks to DeAnne for reviewing it, especially since it was a first piece, and for making very helpful suggestions.   

Sam:  Sam had a few milestones this week.  Sam’s stitches were removed, the bell collar came off and she went back to canine rehabilitation where she walked on the underwater treadmill, did a few leg exercises and got a back massage.  Overall, Sam’s recovery on this leg is going a lot more smoothly, but it helps that she’s eight pounds lighter.   

Movies:  We just saw “Inception” – handsdown the best movie I’ve seen all year – solid SciFi adventure.   

Randomness:  Apparently, the AP Style Guide now says there should be only ONE space after a punctuation mark and the next sentence or after a colon.  This is all thanks to proportional fonts.  (Basically the letter “i” or the punctuation mark “.”  no longer take up the same amount of space say an “M” these days.  Thanks, Anna!)  Since my high school typing teacher (don’t ask how I ended up in that class) was more frightening (and nasty) than the AP Style Guide will ever be, I’ll be sticking to the double space between sentences, thank you.   (Side note: If you work with Anna, she has been trying to break all of you teachers of double-space habit for over 13 years now.  Please, do not the double-space in her presence.  Unless, of course, you also had my high school typing teacher who is still way more scary than Anna.  Not that Anna is scary.)  

That’s about it.  If you’re still reading then you’ve been wasting valuable writing time and should spend the next five minutes sending me a note and letting me know what’s going on with you.

Sewing 101

As I mentioned somewhere on my Summer’s Bucket List post, I started taking Beginning Sewing. Why? I have no clue. Maybe it was pinning together one too many of Dad’s sewing projects over the years, sitting at my grandmother’s antique sewing table rocking the stylized metal foot (is it a foot if it’s about 3′ x 3′?) back and forth or seeing my co-workers projects. Who knows? Now, I’ve sewn in the past. I’ve had my own machine (that I sold in a garage sale). I’ve made my own dress (singular) with buttons (go me), but I’ve never been formally trained. And since I’m apparently determined to be a jittery spaz that people pity in the writing group (embarrassed myself at the June meeting, too – good work), I clearly need some wins.      

So (with an “o”, no need for an obvious painful pun), my friend Kendra and I signed-up for Beginning Sewing at the Stitch Lab. It was truly a fantastic class with an awesome (and extremely patient) teacher, Hayley. I was drawn to this particular place, because each lesson ended with the students creating something. Ok, and to be honest, I really dug the fabrics they showed on Flickr (well, they’re really cool/fun fabrics).      

In the first class we learned the basics of the sewing machine and a simple stitch. And by the end of our first class we had completed our first project – a pouch. Yes, a pouch – something you can put things in and take things out of, I don’t need your sassiness. The pouch has a drawstring and a flat, rectangular bottom. A world of Christmas thoughts flitted through my head (as prompted by a fellow classmate who, more clever than I, suggested them – I’m sure I eventually would have thought of them. Maybe.)      

The First Project (Pouch)

The First Project (Pouch)



In the second class we had to create a decorative pillow. Let’s stop right there, I hate decorative pillows with a passion. When I say “with a passion” I mean I think they herald the fall of mankind and their continued existence burns a hole through my very soul. Sure, they can look “lovely” I suppose – possibly at someone else’s house, but other than collecting dust, and constantly needing to be fluffed and repositioned, I don’t care for them. HOWEVER, with that said, I made one (not much choice in the matter) and I have to say it kind of makes me stupid with happiness. In this particular class, we learned about piping and zippers (and the value of a good seam ripper – apparently, if the zipper cloth doesn’t go under the foot just right and the fabric wads up, you can have a bit of a nightmare on your hands – so I’ve heard).      

Project 2 (Pillow)


The third class – let’s just start by saying I was already enjoying a really bad weekend before I walked through the doors. I got to class early, suspecting I needed to purchase more interfacing for my project. (We got to choose one of several projects and since I wasn’t letting anyone near me with a tape measure to make a skirt and I didn’t need a fancier decorative pillow, because of the whole “fall of mankind” thing I went with the “messenger bag”.) As we were all laying out our material and looking at our instructions and patterns for our various projects, our instructor mentioned there had been some crying in a previous class. Inwardly I snorted. As a rule, I’m typically not a cry-er. In fact, it usually takes some major event to get me going (or an Oprah episode, ok or maybe the end of a good book, or that time Dr. Carson Beckett died on SG:Atlantis saving the entire station and really all he wanted that day was someone to go fishing with him, but I digress). I’m fairly certain it was the smugness in my “snort” that caused everything to go pear-shaped for me that day.      

It started with the fabric. Where I thought I didn’t have enough for interfacing, I actually didn’t have enough of the regular material, either. I realized this as I started laying everything out and ironing the pieces. This is where our ever-patient teacher consoled me and pointed out all the other fabrics available for purchase throughout the store. WHEW! I shopped around, picked out the fabrics I wanted and Hayley cut-out the right yardage. I was on my way to messenger bag-dom! But, I was now behind my classmates on the pinning and cutting. In fact, people were starting to sew before I had my piece pinned. Hayley to the rescue part 2 – Hayley began helping me cut and pin. Apparently, I chose a project that was a little more complex than the skirt or pillow and she tried to remind me that we had plenty of time. I wasn’t behind, she reassured, I just had more pieces. At some point when I was finishing off stitching a piece at the sewing machine, I turned in my chair to go back to the table for more pinning and that’s when the “snort karma” caught up with me to smack me in my smug face. The chair I was sitting in broke into three pieces and I unceremoniously spilled onto the wooden floor. (My knee and ego are still bruised.) I really can’t quite express how humiliating it is to be the oldest and the fat-est crawling around on the floor. I apologized profusely and proceeded to beat myself up – the odious fat beast on the floor – good one, Beth.      

I hung my head down, berating myself as I made my way back to the table and that’s when I started silently bawling. This is a trick I learned from my mother – the art of the quiet melt-down where you don’t alert those nearby that it’s happening. The only thing that kept me from completely walking out was the idea of the parade of people tailing me into the parking lot with their pity. “It’s ok. It’s not that bad. That chair was wobbly.”      

Now I was in full-blown freak out, which meant the higher functioning bits of my brain had shutdown. The reptilian side, which demanded I run and hide, pinned and sewed something completely wrong. Hayley to the rescue part 3 – she took the piece away and started removing the stitches while giving me something else to focus on. Together she walked me through the rest of my project and after a few of the students had left, having completing their projects, I produced this:      

Project 3 (Messenger Tote)


Now, what the picture doesn’t show well is that the flowers are not really a yellow or gold, they’re actually a cheerful chartreuse. I’m kind of proud of this creation – my first messenger bag – produced from tears, banged up knees, bruised ego and a lot of patience on my instructor’s part.      

Bag in hand and with thirty minutes to spare, I headed to the car. The air let me know my pants were falling down. AWESOME DAY!