Archive for I make things.

Sweat Remediation, Part 1.

I’ve shied away from the mention of heat waves and drought here in this space. I suspected that, given the slightest opportunity, the whining and self pity and utter sluggishness resulting from this drought would take over the podium, that even the mere mention of it here would feed the monster and make it multiply, like the yeasty proliferation of bread dough, or gremlins fed after midnight. Not having much else to say, then, I resolved to sit on my hands and shut up.

But hot damn. It was hot. And worse, it was dry. There was not a drop of measurable rain for over 6 weeks. The grass of the pasture dwindled down to nothing, having been mowed down by both sheep and chickens passing through but unable to regenerate for Round 2. Chickens were butchered, so the stress of feeding them vaporized, but fourteen wooly ungulate mouths still required grass, and lots of it. Out of necessity, they got acquainted with the wilder pockets of the acres, testing the agility of the portable electric fence as they were pastured on the hillside, all brambly and overgrown. They swiftly stripped down the grapevines and bared the vigorous buckthorn down to spindly annoyances. I pushed the boundaries of ‘pasture’ until nothing else green remained. The rain remained stubbornly elusive and we felt no choice but to take it all personally. I added to the list of grievances caused by the rain’s absence when we filled up our trailer and truck with hay and were forced to begin feeding it at the beginning of July, four months ahead of the normal schedule. All the while I knew full well that our dependence on the rain was minimal, compared to real farmers who depend upon the bounty of the rain to feed their crops or their livestock, that we didn’t stand to lose much by comparison, but I felt it my duty to take that personally as well, to be outraged at the (lack of) weather for those farmers too. It was a big grudge to carry, and a long time to shoulder it, but the sourness of it all proliferated with no effort whatsoever, like negativity is prone to do.
The stress of it all was palpable, like a crackle of electric tension in the air. I had come to depend on the rain, I realized, as a release of tension. The sun says Go! Do! Keep going! Full speed! Time’s a wasting! But the rain, when it it here, signals a change of pace, a clearing off of the overfull plate. It says Whoa, now. Take a deep breath. Turn inward. Recharge. Be clean, start fresh. Have a drink, close your eyes. Slow. Rest.
There was none of that, then. The sun pounded us with unrelenting triple digit heat with an endurance that would be impressive if it weren’t so oppressive. Frazzled and twitchy and despondent, I hollered at the kids too much and stomped around the house. I cursed the sky like a filthy sailor when I slipped on the crispy lawn and fell on my ass. I was mad.

So I raised an obscene finger to the sky and schlepped a wimpy window air conditioner into my studio and cranked it on with a scowl on my face. And in a grand ‘F-You’ to the weather, I cranked out 5 skirts and a dress in 2 days of sewing.


It’s not a very graceful show of creative accomplishment. Now that we’ve gotten some rain and the grass has resumed its greening, I can see very plainly how I’ve been acting like a sulky child. But I do have an abundance of skirts to choose from, so let’s just focus on the positive.



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Rumple Recap

When I set out to challenge myself to not buy any new fabric for a few pennies shy of a full year, it seemed BOLD and DRASTIC and DELICIOUSLY RESTRAINING and possibly IMPOSSIBLE.  A year seems such an unimaginably-large chunk of time, too big to wrap my arms (and hence my brain) around.  But, oh, if I could do it, wouldn’t the results be BOLD and DRASTIC and DELICIOUS?

Well.  Turns out a year is but a blink of the eye.  Turns out that what I was really after, with regards to the management of my studio materials and the output of said space, was the giant reconsider-every-last-bit-in-here purge that I have more recently completed.  But it is important to point out that the groundwork laid by the Challenge set the stage for a monumentally successful purge:  if I didn’t make x in the past year, when my attention was focused more keenly on what was in front of me, well, then it likely wasn’t ever going to be made by me, so why not give someone else a crack at it?

And now, as I peruse the archives for those things that I cranked out of the stash-at-hand, I’m immensely underwhelmed by the volume.  I actually didn’t make all that much.  Out of fabric.  But my garden exploded, as did my flock of sheep, their bounty of wool needing processing, and a myriad of other sewing distractions.  It’s clear that the bandwidth allotted to sewing has shrunk consistently as new, exciting ventures are added to the mix.  It is as it should be, I’m satisfied, and now my studio reflects this.  The fabric cubes have been tamed to a manageable size, making room for the introduction of wool into the studio.  There’s a lot of spinning to be done, folks.  Of wool into yarn, not straw into gold.  So with this, I hereby conclude the Rumpelstiltskin Challenge officially, though the basic tenets will stick with me indefinitely.  Use what you have.  Limit your possibilities so that you can stretch your designs further.

But enough about me.  What about you?  There is a wealth of lovely projects captured in the flickr pool.  How did the Challenge fare for you?


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The Studio is complete.

And it is glorious.

It was a major undertaking, one that required a long, contemplative absence from this space.  I’m sorry to have kept you hanging, but it had to be done.

It was a clearing out. An upheaval of the status quo. A reimagining of the function of the space.  A letting go of so, so much –  ideas long expired, remnants from former lives, baggage. I feel so free, so unencumbered.

The world is my oyster, and it is the most beautiful world I could muster within the confines of this space.  I tried to paint heavily with the brush of restraint, to avoid putting in too much, to leave room for contemplation.

There’s room now for a few precious things that stand on the merits of their beauty alone.

Other elements meld the virtues of function and beauty.  To be sure: Roy G. Biv was here.

This particular nook makes me feel like a small genius.  A comfy chair!  To sit and ponder in.  To glean a different perspective from.  To simply be in.

The fabric cubes: my single greatest achievement.  Before the Great Upheaval, their confines were spilling out all over everything.  They couldn’t even begin to contain my collection of fabric.  They were infested with the accoutrements of mice.  I estimate that I purged the equivalent of a small bus;  bags and bags and bags of thrift-bound castoffs, so many I lost count.  I put a sturdy backing on the cubes, to require mice to enter from the much-more-exposed front side.  I have begun a rigorous trapping program, sponsored by peanut butter.  So far the body count is at four, a pittance.

And I found a fantastic use for two years of past Nikki McClure calendars.  That they are so beautiful makes me want to keep them visible by not filling those cubes to the brim.  Genius.

I feel like a blank slate, made fresh and clean and ripe-near-to-bursting with possibilities.  It is a good place to be.

For tomorrow:  the long-awaited recap of the Rumpelstiltskin Challenge.  See you then!


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Bear cubs sound remarkably like human cubs.

Still working.  Last night saw the final brushstrokes of paint applied, minutes before the stroke of midnight.  It’s a lovely, calm shade of grey, matching perfectly the subdued, otherworldly light pouring into that North-facing room.  It was with much intention that this paint was chosen and applied.  Wave (of Focus) is what it’s called, the parenthetical being my own addition.  Can laying the groundwork for calm, sustained work, leading to fruition of certain goals be as simple as mindful painting?  Time will tell.  It certainly bodes well that this work was done during the new moon, a phase reputed for great success in achieving one’s intentions. Which was pure luck on my part, not due to clever planning, but I’ll take it nonetheless.


Have you been keeping up with Jewel, the Black Bear in labor?  We’ve been checking in from time to time and just this morning discovered that she had two bear cubs on Sunday morning.  Oh. My. If those newborn cub sounds don’t sound so much like newborn baby sounds… It’s almost eerie.

Happy Babymoon, Jewel.  I don’t envy you the intensity of life with (two!) newborns.


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January is for…





new life.

We’re not so very different from bears, are we?  This weekend’s Prairie Home Companion mentioned a black bear momma-to-be in Ely, MN who was on the verge of giving birth.  You can imagine how that got our attention, especially when it was also mentioned that we could potentially witness it via the web cam in her den, outfitted with an infrared (night vision) lens.  We’ve been checking in with Jewel intermittently and to my knowledge, she’s not yet had those cubs.

Thankfully, I’m not expecting literal new life – human, lamb, or otherwise – but I am on the verge of rebirth myself.  I’ve undertaken a major overhaul of my studio.  I’ve bought paint for those studio walls that we’ve not yet made our own.  I’m coveting chippy old step back cabinets to replace the plywood and bracket shelves that formerly organized my stuff.  This is so much more than previous purge fests; I’m reconsidering every single thing crammed into that space, making it justify its existence.  And I’m letting go. I’m letting go of the things I know I’m not actually going to make.  I’m letting go of the ideas (65 million and counting) that are not aligned with my overarching goals.  I’ve re-adopted that mantra which flew out the window the minute we moved into this new life:  just because I can make something, doesn’t mean I should.

All of this requires a balanced vacillation between thinking and doing and resting. And lots and lots of purging.

Back to it.


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Sewing my way out of this mess

My studio is in a state of emergency.  Fibers are everywhere – the woven kind one uses for sewing, the fluffy kind one uses for spinning and knitting.  Patterns are everywhere – the kind that comes nicely contained in an envelope and the kind that manifests on scraps of paper in the midst of a creating binge.  Thread ends and seam trimmings and snippets of fabric float about like dust motes.  Christmas gifts, too, have begun piling up in this place which has become a de facto repository for gifts waiting to be tucked into fabric gift bags.

I can find only one reasonable way out.  To start sewing.  The bulkiest bits are prioritized for their (larger) ability to open up real estate.  First up – a replacement shower curtain.  The lovely crane-filled curtain made in a previous flurry of sewing (blathered on about here) has unfortunately not withstood the intense pressure of soap build-up (it became faded and discolored) nor the pressure of the washing machine,  (defective, I think, and since replaced) which chewed the bottom hem to bits.  Our showers, while still quite functional from a utilitarian standpoint, had lost all of their aesthetic ambiance quite a while ago.  This natural-color large piece of what I presume to be linen/cotton was spotted among the standard polyester fare of a thrift store.  I printed the lovely motif with an wood block I scored at my favorite local-ish antique store.  I salvaged the upper white portion and added then new skirt and done.  Seems ridiculous that it sat around so long.

Now that I had a discolored hemp former-shower curtain to deal with (because you can’t just throw that out – it’s HEMP and crazy-expensive) I didn’t really gain anything in the Clear-Space-in-my-Studio department, did I?  I quickly cut and sewed that former shower curtain bottom into two nice drawstring sacks with which to contain some of the renegade wool clogging the studio’s arteries.  Ka-pow!

This sack is currently moonlighting as a gift bag.

This cutter quilt was taking up nearly a full cube of my fabric wall.  I hemmed and hawed and agonized over what to do with it, until I decided that the very best thing to do with it is actually the very opposite of the Too-Precious-To-Cut-Up-So-Let-it-Wallow-on-the-Shelves-For-Years approach I had been taking:  I made it into three dog beds.  Now it sits in a lovely quilted bundle under the tree.  The pugs won’t know what hit them on Christmas morn – they haven’t received gifts from us since we upended their social status by procreating.

Another cutter quilt – this one has now been cut up and used in about 5 different ways.  The most dramatic is not shown – I’m waiting for it to magically float up to the wall where it will hang in our bedroom.  That magic is pending.  The bottom hem, however, is shown above in its new incarnation as a dresser runner.  So, so lovely.  Hand quilted.  I hope she who crafted such a lovely quilt is not too terribly mad at me for cutting it up – the all-over wear is evident and comforts me that it was overwhelmingly loved in its previous life as a quilt.

Now.  Off to keep digging myself out.


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Winterizing: The Boy

Hot off the press are these 5 new long-sleeve raglan tees for The Boy.  This effectively increases his long-sleeve winter wear by approx. 250%.  Not too shabby for a day’s work.  This one features a lovely screenprinted image I got at the Procession of the Species Solstice event two years ago.    The bowtie is mine.  The sleeves are made from a lovely wool knit, the body from a sweatshirt type fleece that I thrifted some time ago.

This is a little trout block print I did.  I was so proud of myself…until I realized I printed it on the back panel of the shirt.  I decided to turn it into a little joke.  Here’s the front:

Again, the bright blue wool knit.  A fun technique for adding more linear elements; you can see the dried fabric glue stick I used to both lay out the writing and stick down the applique.  As it’s a fabric glue stick, I trust it will wash right out.  Haven’t gotten that far yet.  You’ve already met Witchard.

Even a thin-gauge sweater makes a fine candidate for these shirts, if you can use the hems of the original sweater to prevent fraying.  This sweater will have to be very carefully concealed from the sheep, however, as it’s entirely acrylic.  Blech.  Apparently the softness of it and stripes momentarily overtook my better judgement when I was shopping.  Because it’s not nearly as warm or fabulous as wool.

Need to winterize your own Little?  There’s space left for both the Embellish it! Workshop  (all this printing/applique/collage goodness) and the Raglan Tee Workshop.  Drop me a line and register soon.

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Love is in the air

Sam the Sham and The Pharaoh have just returned from a month-long Bachelor’s vacation.  It was nothing exciting; they stayed in the winter sheep area behind our chicken coop, about 100 or so yards from the pasture where all the girls were.  They played cards, smoked cigars, listened to blaring heavy-metal music at all hours of the night, and then got sloppy-drunk.  It was to be a sort of long-distance courtship between Sam and the ewe lambs.  I had crossed my fingers in the hope that I removed him from the pen before they matured enough to start cycling; I meant to keep him separated until they were old enough and a 5 month gestation would bring lambs in spring, rather than the dead of winter.  The Pharaoh was there for mutual support.

This is the hand of a rookie. Next time, said hand will be cloaked in a latex glove.

Yesterday the Bachelors returned to the flock.  Upon entering, I slathered Sam’s brisket with a messy handful of this green paint goo.  The idea is to see who gets “courted” and when, so that we have some reasonable idea of when to watch for lambs.  It beats my previous system of “Hmm.  Sam’s pretty aggressive.  Bet he’s breeding someone.  Look sharp in 5 or so months!”  The sheep who have been courted will bear a bright green mark near their tails.  I almost didn’t slap the goo on – a mixture of laziness and intimidation made foregoing the task till reinforcements arrived (Captain Daddio) a tempting idea.  There likely wouldn’t be any action on the first day back anyways.  His presence will likely inspire the girls to cycle soon and we might not have any real action for a couple of weeks.

Well.  Shows what I know.  Not much at all. Later in the afternoon, I almost fell over when I saw that Violet was marked quite obviously.  Well! Also, he was smoking a cigarette. So cliche, Sam.

I should clarify that there are only 2 ewes we suspect are not already pregnant.  Garnet may lamb at any time.  (Please note that the use of the marking goo would have been a welcome predictor of her due date.  We’ve been ‘on the ready’ for almost a month now.)  Gloria and Sylvia look quite laden as well.  We’re not sure about Lily, our new girl.  I think she’s getting rounder, but ultimately, if she gets marked with the green goo, we’ll know that my camera was adding pounds, not pregnancy.  This is the key here – the ram is very efficient.  He breeds only when they’re cycling.  Not if they’re pregnant. Not just for fun.

So, the faint marking of green on Lily’s back that I noticed this morning?  Was it because the goo had dried out?  Would it have been slap-in-the-face-obvious like Violet’s?  Or did he nudge her while she was lying down?  Oh, there is so much to figure out.

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It’s like a bun in the oven…

…in that I conceived this wild idea of growing my own yarn – handpicked the sheep, helped birth their lambs, had their wool transformed into cotton candy – then dyed it with goldenrod growing out my back door and spun it into the very likeness of the sun. It’s pretty much the same, right?

Nah.  But making this yarn does feel like I’ve birthed something good. 

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The Rumple Report: Prodigal Edition

Well, now!  Remember that little challenge I issued at the start of the year?  I do, vaguely.  Seems I’ve be a bit remiss in keeping my own participation up-to-date.  Sewing, knitting, and other such stash-bushing activities seem to be furthest from my mind while wrenching newborn lambs from their uterine enclosures or wresting jungle-gauge weeds from the garden beds.  (insert your own excuses here too, if you wish)  But after last week’s grand cannonball back into sewing, I thought it might be time to see if I can coax a few more of you back into the sewing-what-we-got game.  It’s August already, and time for a new theme.

Back to School.

Am I the only one out there who is frantically ticking off the days till the school bus arrives and brings a little peace to the house?  Has anyone else thought about dropping off the almost-X-grader at the school to wait out the last days till the first bell rings in a new school year?  Is anyone else on the verge of going crazy? Please, humor me and tell me I’m not alone.  And then let’s all channel that energy (empathetic or real) into making some things for the kiddos to wear while they’re mercifully Not. At. Home.

I’ll start.

Isadora requested a skirt in the midst of a skirt-making frenzy, so I swiftly obliged.  Its former job was as a strapless dress for a waif.

And while I’m playing catch-up, I thought that I’d also share some more views of the dress I made for myself in last week’s sewing orgy.

Here it is, straight from the hamper, only slightly unrolled from its balled-up heap.




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