Starting 2014 By Finishing . . .

IMG_4454When we were kids, my sister and I lived by rules. My mother had her own version of the 10 Commandments and the greatest among them was this:

churchsignWe were not to boast, show off, or draw undue attention to ourselves. And Mom had a look that could stop us, not to mention rogue elephants, in our tracks if we showed even a hint of an intention of show-off behavior.

Well, Mom, I’m a big girl now and, while I try to live a circumspect, modest life, I am so happy to have finished a specific project, that I’m going to start the New Year by tooting my on horn, ringing my own bell, and just generally acting goofy.

It’s done. It’s done! IT’S DONE!!

What’s the big deal, you ask? People finish quilts every day.

Yes, well, so they may, but this quilt was started when my niece was an infant and she is now 17. This quilt took longer to finish than my doctoral dissertation and that is truly saying something.

I don’t know why it took so long. I’ve finished other quilts in a more reasonable amount of time. To my defense, almost every stitch in this quilt was done by hand—hand piecing and hand quilting. But that has been true of the other quilts I’ve made—I just really hate sewing machines.

I worked on it in fits and starts and got distracted along the way by work and other hobby obsessions. I took courses in jewelry making and then started with the candy making I’ve told you about. I stopped being a college prof and became an associate dean, which took a lot of attention. Then I retired and we moved and I started doing other things and, and, and  . . .

But this quilt called to me—all it has needed, really, for about the last 5 years, was to have the edges trimmed and the binding sewed on, maybe 4 days of work.

So, I finally did it. On one of the last warm days of fall, I dragged it out to our seawall and trimmed the edges. Then candy season hit and I stalled again but last week I took the time and finally finished the quilt.

And (here comes the really immodest part!), I love it! It’s a variation on an Ocean Waves pattern and I think I invented the setting. To my eye, it’s downright gorgeous and I’m going to hang it on the wall, in a place of honor, so I can be impressed with myself every single time I see it!

I might even start another quilt. I have dozens of little patches left over from piecing the top of this one and I have ideas. And working on a quilt is another great way to stay warm in the winter.

But, first, I have to do penance. Forgive me, Mother, for I have sinned—I showed off.

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Sewing Hands at Home, with Attitude

IMG_2546I don’t sew.

Well, I do sometimes, but I hate it. I like sewing by hand well enough but I just hate using a sewing machine. I hate any sewing machine but I loathe my expensive computerized machine.

My problem is I hate a couple of other things more than sewing so I find myself sitting at a sewing machine every once in awhile, like I did last week when I made these curtains.

A couple of years ago, we took out the wall between two guest rooms and put in French doors, with the intention that any company we had could use the space as a kind of suite—lovely, right?

But, as the saying goes, the path to hell is paved with lovely intentions and hell, in this case, is one very nice guest room, connected to a room that has become the repository for all the vintage linens I have purchased and have yet to list in my shop. Hellish, indeed.

IMG_2528So, until I can get those linens under control, we needed a way to block the view from the guest room into hell. And that’s where the curtains came in.

I had a clear idea of what I wanted in curtains and to find them I was going to have to shop, spend money, and settle for something that didn’t live up to what I envisioned. And those are exactly the things I hate more than sewing.

I really don’t find any joy in shopping, unless it’s for vintage stuff at great prices. I rarely go to a store and, instead, make do with what I have rather than facing the hassle of buying new.

I wanted simple curtains, anchored at the top and bottom with rods, with blue and yellow. I wasn’t going to find those in a store so my other option was to have someone make them for me.

But . . . but . . . pay someone else to do something I could do myself (even though I hate doing it)? My pesky Puritan work ethic simply wouldn’t allow that happen. And so the windows stayed uncurtained.

Everything started coming together about a month ago. I found a bolt of new, old-stock Stevens linen toweling fabric on eBay. That’s a lot of adjectives but they’re all important to me. The bolt meant I got 20 yards of fabric and I needed a lot. It was vintage and originally would’ve been sold to women as yard goods, to make their own dish towels, but it was also brand new and never used. Stevens is an American company, still in operation, that has been making towels for over 150 years.

The fabric was a beautiful natural linen color, with bands of yellow and thin accents of blue running along the edges. And to make it even more perfect, because it was meant as toweling, it was 18 inches wide; I could make two panels for each of the French doors and not have to hem any sides. All I would have to actually sew was the top and bottom rod pockets!

IMG_2531And we had company scheduled to arrive, which really lit a fire under me.

So I dusted off my loving hands and sat down to sew. I still refused to use that nasty computerized machine, opting instead for my mother’s old mechanical machine. It was more than up for the task!

I cut the fabric so I knew it would be plenty long enough and then did the top on all four pieces. First, I double-turned and stitched a quarter-inch hem because the fabric was a loose weave and wanted to ravel.

IMG_2535 IMG_2536Then I folded over about 2 inches of fabric and pressed it and stitched two rows, one along the very edge of my double-turned hem (so, two inches from the top edge) and the other one inch in from there. The space between those two lines became my rod pocket and left about an inch of header fabric. Am I making any sense?

IMG_2538In the meantime, my husband hung the rods. The top rod was done as usual, with the brackets facing up to let the rod sit in them, but the bottom brackets were placed upside down, so I could hook the bottom rod over them.

I hung up all four panels on the top rods and stepped back to admire my work—that’s the only good thing about sewing!

To finish the bottom ends, I sat on the floor and pulled the fabric in each panel to the degree of tension I wanted and pinned it. I didn’t try to do any measuring because the panels were so long and because it seemed easier to just fake it. I did one panel at a time and did run back and forth to the guest room to double-check everything a lot so that, if I messed up, I wouldn’t ruin everything.

IMG_2542The bottom hems went in just like the top ones. I didn’t trim the extra length until I put the finished panel up and made sure it was just right. If it was too loose or too tight, I could’ve picked the stitching out and made the adjustment.

But they all came together perfectly! And because of the tension on the panels, when the rods were snapped into place, I didn’t even have to iron them.

I honestly love these curtains—they are just my style and just what I envisioned. I have fabric left over so I can make more curtains or pillows or dish towels, for myself or to sell.

Don’t get excited, though. I still really don’t like to sew. But it certainly is a useful basic skill to have and to fall back on. Am I alone in my antipathy for sewing? Can you sew? What can I do to learn to love it?

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