Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crafting and Caring for Others

This has been a stellar day.  (So stellar, I'm glad that I didn't bitch blog yesterday about my joy-stealing trip to WM in search of fresh mozzarella.  That's almost forgotten . . . )

I have a special-needs friend, Anita, who comes to our knitting group at the library.  She is a lovely person, and is always gifting me with her crocheted projects -- last week it was a penguin snowman.  Last Thursday, as we were sitting working, she told us that she had always wanted an American Girl doll (Kirsten, to be exact, as her niece's name is Kirsten) as she would love to crochet doll clothes for her.

I knew I had to find one for her, but also knew it would be tough to find a Kirsten, as she has been retired for a few years. (Why yes, I do stay current on AG news.  Yes, I still get the AG catalog and yes, I do enjoy each and every page.  So what?  And yes, I love the Kirsten doll myself.  I always wished I was Swedish instead of German;  I had read a book about Scandinavian children when I was about 10, and longed to wear a lit-candle wreath on my head at Christmas.  Didn't everyone?)

I looked on eBay and Craigslist, but the Kirsten dolls were very expensive, as I expected.  So, this morning I put out a feeler on facebook, and holy cow, the response was swift and amazing!  All sorts of great ideas, and offers of $ so we could buy Anita a doll -- even from people I'm not friends with.  I got several private messages, from college friends and girls I've know since they were little -- one sweet girl is sending her Kirsten tomorrow.  Crazy awesome.

I think this might be the start of something.  Something like a group of women who collect beautiful used dolls, spruce them up, dress them up and pass them on to girls and women who could never afford to own a beautiful doll.  What do you think?

While this idea is brewing, I thought I would share a few of my favorite charity crafting sites with you.  I've compiled a huge list that I keep in my knitting files, but these are the ones I have participated in, and really love.   If you want to sew, knit or crochet for someone else, my first advice would be to do a little research and make sure your items are needed -- space is limited at many hospitals, relief centers and schools, especially after a tragedy, and too many lovingly created things get thrown in the trash because they can't be stored or distributed.  It would probably be better to just send cash.

Here are some sites where we know our crafty efforts will be appreciated:

The Painted Turtle.  This is a Paul Newman-founded camp in California for children with chronic illnesses.  They like to make sure every child has a pillow, and you can sew a turtle "skin" pillow case with the pattern then have posted.  They also like twin-size quilts and knit or crocheted afghans.

Operation Care Package.  They need small drawstring bags (and provide a pattern), travel pillows, Christmas stockings and other crafty items for members of the military.  All kinds of good information at their site.

1 Million Pillowcase Challenge.  One of my favorites.  All People Quilt has been running this challenge for a few years now, and I love it (it's where I learned the burrito-style pillowcase!)  The patterns are easy to follow, and you know a brightly-colored pillowcase will cheer up a sick child.  You can turn your pillowcases in at local fabric shops for distribution where they are needed.  (I think pillowcases make great gifts for anyone  who isn't feeling well -- I like to use a soft minky-type fabric for one side, colorful cotton for the other.)

Afghans for Afghans.  This long-running charity collects hand-crafted items for relocated women and children in Afghanistan as a symbol of peace and friendship.  They started with distributing afghans, and currently they are accepting hand knit (or crocheted, I would guess) socks, mittens and hats through September 30, to be shipped out for the coming winter.  The color green is especially valued in the Muslim culture.

The Red Scarf Project.  You can knit or crochet a red scarf for a child who has been in the foster care program and is now attending college.  This is an awesome project, full of love for kids.  They have several nice patterns listed, but any red scarf is appreciated.

And one of my absolute favorites, Craft Hope.  They have sponsored 22 projects for people in need around the world.  There isn't a current project, but go to their site and read about all they great things they have done.  And keep checking in for the Project 23!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sewing Again, and A New Friend

 My poor old messenger bag is looking shabby.  I never really intended to carry it all the time, but it just sort of worked out that way.  And now it's grubby and there's a hole in a pocket and honestly, I pack it with so much crap that it's way too heavy.  Sniff.  Make way for the boo hoo baby.  (Wow.  Blast from the past.  I loved that book.)

I digress.  As usual.  Anyway, I had purchased a stack of cool Enchino fabric for my cool friend, Kim, so we could make her a cool purse.  I did, however, keep a pretty big slice of the cool gold glasses fabric for myself.  I pieced that together with some Melody Miller Ruby Star and came up with this new bag:

Where did that button come from?  If you guessed my mom's infinite button box, you would be right.

And by the way, did you know that you no longer have to make a trip to Indianapolis for cool fabric?  Crimson Tate, sells ONLINE!  To quote Heather, Holy Cats!  

The back:
No pattern, just a general idea, a quilt ruler and rotary cutter.  And years and years of messing with fabric.

Every couple of weeks, I go to the Goodwill and try to find cheap old purses to scavenge the hardware on them.  For this purse, I also cut out a zippered pocket from one of my purchases and added that to the inside.  For secret stuff:.

 In these pictures, my new purse is hanging on my mom's sewing rocker.  I love that chair, and think it was made for a short woman like me, as my feet easily rest flat on the floor.  A few weeks ago, my friend, Lori, brought me this little sewing cabinet which will be just right by my rocker.  It has a little sliding drawer, a drawer for spools of thread and a compartment on each side.  How adorable is this?

Lori got this for $10, but then saw one at an antique store for $125.  How savvy is she?  I thought about painting this, but might just clean it up and give it a little polish.

I bought some cute new fabric to make pillow cases for the boys for their birthdays (even though Nate's birthday isn't until February, I think I'll make him one, anyway!):

I thought this was extra cool -- color-by-numbers.  I have no plans for this fabric, but I know it will turn into something groovy.

And I bought this fabric

with my new friend, Mailes, from Zambia in mind.  Wonder if she would like a pillowcase?  Or a tote bag?  Or a backpack for her school supplies?  Yep, I'm helping her to go to school, and I couldn't be much happier.

I just wrote her a letter, and was telling her about Annie and Zoe, and how they make us laugh.  They are becoming better friends every day.  Even though this picture is a little blurry, I love it.

"Hey Zoe, wake up.  Let's go wreak havoc in Georgie's workroom."


Friday, August 16, 2013


Meet Earl.

A couple of months ago, my dear friend, Blake, brought me an old seat cover from his dad's pickup truck, and asked if I could make a teddy bear out of it for his sister, Tracy, for her birthday.  You see, Tracy had spent countless hours driving their dad around their farms when he wasn't able to drive any longer.  Where Blake got the notion to make that seat cover into a bear, I'm not sure, but I think it was a pretty good idea.

 This bear was not exactly a piece of cake -- the fabric was very stiff, very old and pretty dusty with an odd rubbery coating on the back.  But I was afraid to wash it for fear it might just fall apart.  So I gave it a good shake outside and a couple of whacks on the bushes and started in.

I found a pattern here, at HowJoyful.  The pattern is free, but as she states in the blog post, it helps to have some sewing skills if you tackle this project.  (If you make this bear, just remember to match the letters on the pattern pieces -- this will make everything much clearer, especially for the odd-shaped leg and arm pieces which don't seem to make much sense until you sew them together!).  She made her adorable example bear out of nice soft fleece -- an old stiff truck seat cover is not quite as easy to work with.  I did a lot of clipping on the curves to try to get nice rounded edges, especially in the ears.

 I love the sculpted mouth -- it makes him look so happy.

The nose is from some wool felt roving I had in the closet, and the eyes are two buttons from my mom's button box (naturally.  She has been gone 15 years, and I still never have to buy a button.  Thanks, mom.)  I made the tie out of some burlap ribbon -- I needed something to hide the seam between his head and body, which was a real bear to sew by hand.  Ha!

I forgot to measure him, but I think Earl is about 15" tall, from bottom to ears.  If you cut carefully, I think you could probably get all his pieces from a yard of material.  Earl took a lot of fluff, and I packed it in to smooth out all his edges -- you wouldn't need quite so much fluff with a fleece or other soft cloth version.

 I loved making Earl, and while sewing him, I thought about friendship, family and dads.  I hope Tracy loves him, too, and finds happy memories in his smile -- happy memories of her dad, the original Earl.  I hope she puts him in the truck and takes him for a little ride.  Just because.

I wish I had something special of my dad's to make a happy bear from, so he could sit in my work room with me as a symbol of the love, encouragement and butt kicking I regularly got from him.  (He'd say, "Georgie,  You can do anything you set your mind to.  Now get your ass up off that couch and get busy.")

I might just have to make a trip to the Goodwill to find some old overalls.  Because everyone needs a little Earl now and then, don't they?


Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Report - August

I know, I know.  I haven't written a book report since April.  I get an F in English for May, June and July.

Since Will has immersed himself in the Great American Writers, I've spent a lot of my time re-reading sections of Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald novels so I can try to carry on a half-way intelligent discussion with him.  It's been a while since I read anything by those guys, and it's hard to remember story lines, much less characters.  I've been trying to gently nudge him toward Great American Women Writers, and I'm happy to report that he did choose Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter from my bookshelf.   I've strategically placed Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty and Willa Cather novels around the house.

But I have read /listened to quite a few newer books in the past months, too, and wanted to share those.  Here we go.

 First off, Night Watch is the third installment in the Devlin O'Quinn mysteries, written by our dear friend.  I usually don't read crime mysteries, but these are so good -- maybe I like them so much because they revolve around a loving family and friendship.  You can read this (and her other two books) on your nook (here) or kindle (here).  Plus, book #4 (Unnatural Selection) is available, installment-style, at her blog, Wait A Week Mystery.

I would recommend Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter to everyone.  I listened to this book while sewing and I loved it.  The story jumps from 1962 to present day, and revolves around an actress, Dee Mornay, who was working in the filming of Cleopatra in Rome.  Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor have bit parts in this novel, but I fell in love with our hero, Pasquale, very quickly.  The book is an interesting study in life imitating art, or art imitating life, whichever you choose.

The Storyteller Jodi Picoult.  I read my first Jodi Picoult book when I worked on the Bookmobile and one of the patrons suggested I try one of her earlier novels; I have been a fan ever since.  I love how she weaves a beautiful story and compelling characters within a current-events plot.  I think this was one of her best.  It's a story within a story within a story -- the title is spot on.  Her books are usually traumatic for me, and this one is no exception.  The Storyteller is intense, with vivid concentration camp images and characters you really, really hate.  But there is also beauty.  A burgeoning romance.  And a grandma.  And bread baking.  She is an ultimate storyteller, researcher, teacher -- I always learn something in her books I never knew before (this time, it was the origin of the slashes on artisan breads).

Speaking of bread, I read Bread and Wine by Shawna Niequist on the recommendation of  my sweet friend, Dee -- I'm glad she told me about this one.  It's full of Christian stories of food, the table and community, plus recipes at the end of each chapter.  I found myself nodding in agreement to many of her points -- how cooking at home has fallen out of habit for many families and how we need to get back around the dinner table.  The book does get a little repetitive, and the recipes didn't exactly send me running to the kitchen, if you know what I mean.  But it is a nice book.  If you like this one, try Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life:  Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, one of my favorite books from last year.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton  I thought I was downloading the most recent Kate Morton (The Secret Keeper), but must have mis-clicked.  I will read The Secret Keeper soon, but first I need to recover from this one.  It's kind of rambly, and I never did understand the fictional allure of the fictional children's book that this fiction is built around.  See, rambly I tell you.  I did, however, really like the development of the mother-daughter relationship between the main character and her secretive mother.  The relationship between the castle-dwelling sisters?  That's a little messed up.  Interesting, but messed up.

So, I heard Terry Gross interview Daniel Silva on NPR's Fresh Air last month, and thought I would give him a try, despite the fact that mystery/espionage/terrorist plots are not my idea of fun reading.  But, I thought, I did enjoy 24 and all the Bourne movies, so why not?  So I used an Audible credit and downloaded the first Gabriel Allon novel, The Kill Artist.  It was enjoyable listening.  Silva had said in the interview that he had no intention of creating a series, but his publisher suggested another Allon novel, and now there are 13.  I downloaded the second, The English Assassin, which I am listening to now.  It is much better.  Allon is both international killing machine and art restorer -- I like the arty bits best, and dusted off my art history books for reference.  I don't think I will make it to 13 (maybe not even to 3) but it is good car-listening.

The arty bits in The English Assassin involve masterpieces stolen from wealthy Jewish families by the Nazis.  That's also one of the themes of The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian.  I had read his novel Midwives, many years ago, and thought it was a great story.  This one?  Not so much.  The first chapter grabbed me, but I didn't love the characters, and the ending was less than satisfactory.  I'm not giving up on him though -- I've had The Sandcastle Girls on my list for months, and will report back.

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman.  Holy cats! (To quote Heather from Crimson Tate!) This collection of short stories is amazing.  Really.  Odd, odd, odd characters, settings and plots -- all revolving around animal in one way or another -- but amazing story telling.  I want to write like this.

And, I want to write like this:

I finished this novel this morning at 6:00, and decided today was the day to finish my book report post so that I could tell you how much I loved this book.  The Husband's Secret is a tragic story, but more than anything, it's a story of survival.  How can you survive tragedy?  How can you survive the truth?  Egads.  (I am going to guess this book will become a book club favorite in the very near future.)  This novel is so artfully woven together with comic bits, and romantic bits and heart-wrenching bits.  I would suggest you read this one.  Soon, so we can talk.

(Clay is reading it.  I heard him laugh last night, and then a few minutes later he read me a paragraph he thought was especially touching.  I just hope he's not mad at me when he's done.  We shall see.)

What to read next?