Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fuzzy Girl and Fuzzy Cat on Fuzzy Pillow

I had the great pleasure of making a fuzzy birthday pillow for one of my uncles-in-law. Because he's an Irishman in Chicago -- a cop no less! -- we were pretty much obliged us to go with a mostly-green color scheme. And as a girl with reddish hair myself, I find myself in possession of lots of green things, including three or four shades of green fleece.

So my fleece, my mother-in-law's initiative, and the birthday boy's gorgeous photos combined to make this pillow.

Don't worry: the ID blocker strips over their eyes are for internet use only. I've decided that I owe it to my clients and their loved ones to keep their faces off the world wild web. The recipient will actually be able to see and identify his granddaughter and cat. Yes, I'm relieved too.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Reason I Had Babies

You may remember that I like sewing. And possibly more than that, I like costumes. And despite what I said about evolutionary instincts, the real reason I wanted to have children was to be able to make Halloween costumes for them. Remember my Mr. Potato Head? Remember my awesome monarch butterfly?

So it comes as a great surprise to me that I did not make their Halloween costumes this year. Why?
First (and this might not surprise the wiser among you), having twin babies is a lot of work, and I don't have a lot of free time.

Second, having stocked up on five children's costumes already at consignment sales, I had a free treasure trove of available costumes. Free -- or already bought for 3 dollars each -- costumes are less expensive than buying fabric.
Third, how could I deny the world the chance to see Elisa as this particular bunny and Amanda as this particular pink poodle?
So maybe next year, when the girls have a little more idea what Halloween is, and are aware that they're wearing costumes at all, I'll make them something special. For this year, we did just fine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stamps of Approval

When I went to camp for the Women's Weekend, one of the crafts I did in the Hobby Nook was stamp making, part of a class on Letterboxing. Letterboxing is a fabulous centuries-old hobby that involves following treasure-map-like instructions to find boxes people have hidden. Inside each box is a rubber stamp and a notebook. The finder herself brings a rubber stamp. As the guest, she stamps her mark in the notebook. Then she stamps the box's mark in her own book. Over time, collections develop -- within the box and in the participant's book.

Fastforward to my life. I don't get out on treasure hunts much these days. But I do appreciate the heck out of rubber stamps. In my class I made a lamb and a panda, for my Elisa Lamb and Amanda Panda. I printed them on postcards that I sent to the girls, the first postcards they ever received. (Come to think of it, I should show them the postcards so this isn't purely a from-me-to-me exercise).

Some day we'll get to step this up and go on real letterboxing adventures ourselves. For the moment, I'll let them nap while I build their baby books. I can't think of a better rainy day adventure than that.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bringing a Wish to Life

A friend of mine commissioned a portrait of her grandmother, whom she had never known but wanted to be close to. She found an old picture of her and I went from there.

On the computer I turned the black and white portrait to sepia, and printed it onto two surfaces: white cotton, and an acetate transparency. I colored some modest make-up onto the fabric picture with colored pencils. Then I sewed antique ribbons, luscious prints, and a rich velvet around her face, with decorative stitching to bring it all together. I layered the transparency photo ontop of the fabric for depth and shine, letting the cloth of her blouse show through a spot I cut out of the transparency. Then came the embellishments: a vintage earring here, a ribbon flower there. I put them all together in an oval frame encrusted with black buttons. Add a ribbon for hanging, and there she was, in all her splendor.

Her name was Maude. I was very glad to have the opportunity to spend time with her. And I was happier still to send her to live with her granddaughter. May they have many happy years.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Polymer Clay Art -- or Is It?

Am I the only one who sees polymer clay art here? It's nature (red cabbage) imitating art. Or, wait: does polymer clay inherently imitate red cabbage?

For some juicy morsels of polymer art and jewelry, go to one of my favorite sites: Polka Dot Cottage, where Lisa Clarke sells her masterpieces. Also make sure to visit her blog, which is everything this blog wants to be and never well.

Yea, Lisa!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Big Bad Quilt and the story of its picture

I have been working on this sucker for two years or more. I finally finished it this summer. It's king sized! Not only does that mean I had to wrestle it in the sewing machine, but it also means that I couldn't get a picture of the whole thing at once. What you're seeing is a composite of about four pictures. If you look closely you can see -- or at least I can -- where I blurred the edges to try to make the seams disapper. It's not perfect, but with such a busy quilt, it works just fine. Ah, technology!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Thousand Words

Or maybe this counts as two thousand words? Aren't they eloquent? Let's thank Sears for that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bad News and Good News

The bad news is that a wonderful woman, mother, wife, and friend needs a bone marrow transplant. The good news is that her friend can send a comfort pillow to her in the hospital, to express how much she loves her. I hope it helps a little.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recycling with Polkadots

We subscribe to a service that delivers a bag of organic, local produce to our house every two weeks. The fruit and vegetables are so fresh and tasty that they have changed the way we eat, the way we plan our meals, the degree of zeal that I feel for lettuce.

I get a huge kick out of people's pet peeves. I'm sorry that things bother them, but I think it's funny to think how something that means nothing to one person can be so consuming to another. The wonderful people who run the produce service have developed a pet peeve surrounding their recyclable bags. We customers are supposed to leave the previous delivery bag for our delivery person to pick up when he makes the new delivery. Apparently my peer customers have been wadding up the bags, leaving them dirty, or not putting them out for collection at all. And so one day a few months ago the email list was treated to a request, a plea. A rant.

The next day, I got a shipment with some beautiful apples in my new bag. And by the time I went outside to claim it, one of my furry neighbors had already chewed through the bag to sample the wares. What was I going to do? I was going to be one of those bad customers who lets the reusable bag get ruined. That would make me an enemy of the environment, of local farmers, of good people who had to do business with bad people like me.

So I did the only thing I ever know to do: I made it right by sewing. Specifically, my reusable bag got a green and white polka-dotted patch.

I was soooo pleased with myself that I took this picture. The next time we got a delivery, I wanted to wait outside for the delivery guy to see the beautiful patch and realize how clever and devoted to the environment I was. I imagined that the whole customer list would receive an email about my environmental stewardship and whimsy. I really expected an award.

But to date, my adorable patched bag has been met with a big fat nothing. To my face, anyway. I still imagine that I have brought some joy to someone along the supply chain, or to future customers. And just in case I haven't, know that I am so pleased with the little patch of dots that I have spent several weeks giggling and jumping up and down at the very thought. Sometimes being overly pleased with oneself is thanks enough. I think I'm going to let this be one of those times.

By the way, if you're interested in having your own fresh produce and bag-recycling opportunities, I highly recommend South Mountain Veggies. You can tell them the crazy lady who sewed the patch on the semi-disposable bag sent you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Overrun with Accomplishments

I don't want to put pressure on the babies to have to succeed succeed succeed accomplish accomplish accomplish, because I don't want them to turn into stressballs like their mother. But damned if they aren't amazing.

Amanda, who is a true champion sitter, is also in possession of two bottom teeth. I believe in the world of dental excellence we call those incisors. She is quite a good incisor, having incised my hand and lots of her toys.

Elisa, meanwhile, is a rocket in flight. In slow flight, but flight nonetheless. She has abandonned all baby-like notions of lying on her back and waiting for life to come to her. In the middle of every feeding, she insists on flipping onto her hands and knees and having me administer the bottle like she's a little goat. In the same position, she rocks back and forth constantly, like she's about to launch. The morning after I came back from the Women's Weekend she took four tentative crawl-steps towards me. In spite of my proud shrieks.

Elisa, our docile Baby B, has always been a well-tempered, pleasant baby. She entertains herself on the floor or in her crib with happy coos. When I happen by she melts my heart with her sweet smile, which takes up her whole head.

Amanda, the temperamental Baby A, whom I once or twice called the "squeeky wheel," has become a people person. This week at our twins group, when I had stepped out of the room, Amanda addressed the crowd with a new robot-like growl she has been perfecting. When she got everyone's attention, she beamed. They beamed back. She beamed more. I'm glad her face didn't fall off, but she is my daughter, and we have a tremendous capacity for smiling at people.

As their 9-month birthday nears, it occurs to me that they have been outside the womb for longer than they were inside. They have quadrupled their birth weight and developed robust personalities. I'd go so far as to say that they're people!

Now how in the world did that happen?

A Wealth of Friends: A Slideshow


I wanted everyone to see what has happened to my professional life. I love it.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Weekend of Crafts

I went to camp last weekend. Yes, I'm an adult. And it's practically winter. And I have family responsibilities. Still, I had the opportunity to go to Camp Takodah in New Hampshire for a Women's Weekend full of fun, friendship, crafts, and outdoor activities (which I skipped). And by God, I seized the days.

Of my fifty hours away from home, my favorite part was seeing my friend Lucy and all the friends she's been talking about for years but has never actually shown me. My second favorite part was sleeping in a sleeping bag on the top bunk of a slightly wobbly bunk bed in a cabin with rain dripping on me from the roof. My third favorite part was a tie between multi-ethnic line dancing and pure Amurican karaoke.
But my favorite-favorite part that was so favorite that it defies the convention of calling it favorite was:

The Hobby Nook.

I rubbed my soul all over this delightful little cottage, and it petted me back. I died wool yarn, made my own knitting needles, crafted several rubber stamps, did some charcoal drawings, and learned how to felt wool into shapes. I talked about my babies. I heard about the lives of women from their twenties to their seventies, from all over the country and beyond.
I was impressed as hell with Emily, my fiber instructor, who works at Harrisville Designs in a town that's been spinning out fiber arts for centuries. To my delight, she brought lots of goodies from her store and was willing to share. Among other talents, she hauled out her spinning wheel and showed me how to spin yarn from sheep's wool. She gave me a spontaneous lesson one evening in the dining hall, in front of the fireplace. As I watched the wheel pull a string shape out of something that looked like a cloud, my new friend Beth walked by. She said, "I don't know you very well yet, but if I had a camera, I'd take a picture. You really look like you're in your element." I pulled my camera out of my pocket and handed it to her. Bang: historical record.

For the one full day and two half days, I missed my children so much it made me nauseated. But the weekend was finite, and apparently even mothers need to recharge their batteries from time to time. In the end, the babies came away from the experience with a little more Daddy time, some new rubber stamps made just for them, and -- in a few days -- their first postcards.

If I do something with my hand-dyed yarn other than just rub it on my face, I'll post a picture here. But if I just snuggle with my new art supply, well, you don't need to see that.

Thanks for inviting me, Lucy. I loved it a real lot.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Power of Cute

The World Wildlife Fund people figured it out a while ago, with their logo of the panda bear. We've been seeing a lot of polar bear baby pictures recently, as their environment melts. And then there is the ubiquitous, ultra-cute green frog from the tropics. Animals that have good public relations campaigns survive. The cuter they are, the better they do.

I've thought about this in relation to my own babies. Certainly if they weren't as adorable as they were, we would have kicked them to the curb long ago. For a while, when they were first born, they were downright rude. But those big eyes, those Charlie Brown noses. And so here they are, still here, and getting cuter by the day. I find myself at Costco loading up the cart with formula and diapers every week, despite the cost, and despite the fact that Costco doesn't take credit cards. It's all because of those eyes. Cheeks. Chubby knee-rolls.

I read a study once that correlated cuteness and survival. It measured the relationship of eye size to head size, head size to body size, and determined that lots of baby animals can be scientifically called "cute." Remember Puss 'n' Boots from the Shrek movies? He's the swashbuckling kitten with Antonio Banderas's voice, whose most disarming battle strategy is to put on his puppydog eyes. The bigger the head, the bigger the eyes, the harder we all fall.

It also works with product marketing. My Dad was constantly annoyed with my friend Carin and me in sixth grade, when we had one word to summarize what we liked: "cute" things. Dad thought it was the worst selection criterion in the world. Turns out it was the best. We bought a lot of Hello Kitty pencils because of the power of cute.

So as a new baby product consumer, I have noticed a new cutie on the scene.

The ladybug is a special bug. She's clean-looking and approachable. In Mexico, ladybugs are called catarinas (that's Katherines, for those of you who didn't get it) and are considered good luck. The graphic quality of their spot(s) makes them attractive to people who otherwise don't go for bugs. So fabric designers all over the world have gone to town with their image recently. I've never seen as many ladybug designs in my whole life as I have in the last few weeks.

When a friend of mine commissioned a baby quilt for an as-yet-unknown-gendered baby, we went straight for a ladybug theme. Lady for girls. Bug for boys. Something for everyone; universal appeal.

Because the child was going to be born to an American mother living in Ireland, we also snuck in an orange/white/green (Irish) and red/white/blue (American) color scheme. This is the result.

My hope is that the American-Irish baby will become an etymologist. First stop ladybugs. Then bees. Then spiders.

Fabric designers and artists save the world. It was only a matter of time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Breaking news! She's happy I'm happy, but she's not sure exactly why.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Triplets

My dear Aunt Lucy made -- yes, SEWED -- the twins and their cousin a set of matching dresses. They are made from blue and white searsucker fabric, and each girl's was sewn with a different color accent thread: red, yellow, or green. On the back were bunny and star buttons that matched each dress's particular thread.

Amazing, right? Do you know anybody who sews presents for people? Me neither!

So that compelled a photo shoot, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. It's all documented in this slideshow:

Meanwhile, here are another few pictures that needed to be posted.

The Original Fiber Artist

Every time we've tried to get the mail for a week, we have met with a spider web. We get caught in it, it sticks to our hair and hands, and we mumble a humble "sorry" to the spider. I didn't give it much thought, except to think that the poor spider was going to have a lot of heartache if she kept building her web in our path.

But last night it all changed for me. When I stepped onto the stoop, I was met with the eighth wonder of the world. A web was forming before my very eyes. The wonder was not the gossamer strands that laced our handrail; it was the spider.


The original fiber artist.

She had anchored the spokes of her net on the awning, the side of the house, the railing, and the porch light. When I showed up she had made about thirty revolutions around the edge of her web. Every revolution produced another sticky circle that linked up with the spokes, and brought her closer to the center. The outside circle might have been thirty inches in diameter. Every time she made a loop, she came about 1/4 of an inch toward the center. And so she looped and looped and looped. From time to time she stopped and reversed directions. Did she lose her place? Get dizzy? Or just decide that the corner she had just left needed some extra strength?

More amazing than the structure was the fact that she was making the materials with her own body. I know the web comes from somewhere within her little exoskeleton, but I really don't know how she does it. I would have assumed it would take longer for her to spin, though. But she raced around the circle, pausing to knit the new strand together with the spokes at the intersections, then racing on to the next spoke. The line just came. I like to think I was this impressive when I was telling jokes and tying knots with a needle in my mouth at my friend Wendy's school. But let's face it: that thread was store-bought.

As I watched her, I agonized that Charlotte and her web would be lost the next time we carelessly came in the door or got our mail. And then I remembered that I'm human, and though I can't make a web, I can do a little to change my environment.

I decided that we would make a place for our artist in residence as long as she would have us. So I put up signs to remind us and alert our visitors to her sometimes-invisible masterpiece.

This morning Charlotte has retreated to take a nap, I think, and let the web do some grocery shopping for her. I hope she knows she has friends here. Maybe later she'll teach me how to spin.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Creative Life

Your humble Fiber of Her Being blog is going to be undergoing a make-over in the days and weeks to come. It's two dimensions will be rounded into something bigger, sweeter,

A year and a half ago I started another blog, to document our journey through infertility, and to let the world know a little about how it felt. Last summer we finally got pregnant, and this January we had our little baby girls. They'll be turning eight months old this week, and as they grow out of their little baby clothes, I think I'm starting to grow out of the infertility blog.

This is not to say that I've finally shed my infertility skin. No; I think that will stay with me forever. And it's not to say that I've forgotten about my loved ones who are still fighting the infertility fight. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is for them that I'm moving my stories to a new forum. There are lots and lots of infertility blogs out there that now show pictures of sweet babies and toddlers, and describe the joys and trials of childrearing for all to see. Sure, they offer hope that infertility can give way to a family. But they also hurt the currently-infertile when they celebrate one more woman who got to have children. That's the way I felt when I used to see them, anyway.

So I'm moving URLs and changing my focus. We'll mark "AchievingConceiving" as "Achieved: Conceived," and bring my photos and fairy tales to roost with the fiber of my being. Turns out, there's a lot of creativity needed to raise two girls, and if you want, a TON of opportunities to sew.

Stay tuned for pictures of babies, of bibs and blankets, and all the other things that go into a creative life. And yes, there will still be pictures of artwork. It will just be a happier medium.

The Color of Papaya

Do you know what color a papaya is? If you said "yes," you're a liar. Or at least mistaken. Why do I say this with such confidence, without even knowing who you are? It's because of something I learned last month. Namely, papayas are many colors.

A darling woman, one of the darlingest I know, got married last week in Ecuador, in a wedding with a "papaya and cream" color scheme. She commissioned this guest book for friends and family to sign, specifying that the cover should be papaya.

I am a Latin Americanist. At least, that's one of the things I have called myself over time. I marched to the paper store confidently, imagining some papaya I ate once in the town at the mouth of the Amazon. It tasted a little like vomit, but at least it was pretty. When I got to the store, I found lots of sweet papers, including some envelopes in a pinkish-orange whose official color name was "papaya." I bought a big sheet of paper that matched the envelopes exactly, then went home.

When I got started on the project, I noticed that the price tag on the paper said, "pumpkin." My confidence waned. How could a pretty tropical fruit look like the thing we carve ghoulish jack-o-lanterns from? I turned to the Internet, which is a great place for worried people to get their confidence shattered. Indeed, I saw a spectrum of papayas that ranged from cool peach to cherry red, not to mention apple green. Not only are papayas different colors on the outside, but each papaya contains several different colors in the inner flesh. There is no "papaya" color. Or rather, there are infinite "papayas."

And that's when it became lucky that the darling bride had hired a quilter to make her book. I pulled out every shade of orange, pink, and yellow that I had stored under my table, and got to work on the papayaest collage my studio had ever seen. And this is the result.

Today marks six days since the wedding took place, and as far as I know, my color choices did not endanger or offend the nuptials one bit.


Award-Winning Quilt

Okay, that title is misleading. I made this wall-hanging in January, and turned it over to the client the weekend before I had my babies. Not only was I heavily pregnant at the time, but the weight of the 40+ fencing medals was as heavy a burden as I've ever sewn. The result, I think, deserves... well, you know.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm Back!

Hello, my dear friends!

I'm happy to say that I'm back from maternity leave. I have two delicious little girls, Elisa and Amanda, who have just about quadrupled their weight since January. As their nights get longer and my REM sleep returns, I'm itching to get back into the sewing machine saddle.

My professional re-debut actually took place in June, when my friend Wendy asked me to participate in her elementary school's Festival of the Arts. I had the honor, privilege, and challenge of giving six 20-minute presentations (to grades K through 5) back to back in one corner of a gymnasium. I wanted to show them the thrill of sewing, interior design, fusible web, being your own boss... all in a third of an hour.

And this is what we did. Pillows!

When each group had filtered in, I got their participation like a comedy improv show.

"I'm going to sew the pillow that YOU design! Give me three shapes, please."

With hands raised, of course, three volunteers suggested shapes. With the younger groups, the shapes were pretty basic, like a square and a circle. The fifth graders, especially, were a lot more creative: a number five and a graduation cap (since they were about to graduate to middle school).
One exchange went a little like this:

"Yes, ma'am," I said to a little child with long, curly hair. "What shape should we use?"

"I'm a boy."

"Oh. Huh. Sorry. Well, what shape should we use?" (Moving on quickly).

Next I asked them for which color fabric they wanted each shape to be cut out of.



"Circle." That was one of the kindergarteners. "Great!" I said, "And what color should it be?"

Finally, once the shapes were cut out, I asked them where they should each be located on the face of the pillow. Once again, the fifth graders outdid everyone else with recommendations of a broader, overlapping design. That, you know, made sense. The graduation cap on the 5, with a circle behind them.

Thanks for my friend and assistant, Wendy, all of the shapes received iron-on adhesive, and were then ironed on to the pillow fabric. As I talked about the joy of sewing and other fascinating topics, I threaded a needle and stitched all but one side of the pillow. I turned it inside-out, explaining what I was doing as I went along, stuffed in the stuffing, and sewed up the last side.

"VOILA!" I roared as the 20 minutes came to an end. I received a great round of applause each time. I don't think making a pillow has ever ended in such fanfare.

One of Wendy's fellow teachers remarked later, "She can hold a needle in her mouth, thread it, and crack jokes, all at the same time." I hadn't realized that my whole life had been working up to this performance, but it seems clear now. Napoleon Dynamite remarked that girls like boys with skills. It goes both ways. I got skills.

By the end of the two hours, with the sixth pillow coming together, my performance voice had started to get a little dry, and I was glad it wasn't a K through 6. Nevertheless, I was brimming with pride at what turned out to be the most participatory guest program the whole week. And so excited to have my children grow up to be crafty little kids making design decisions with the best of them.

The pillows now reside in the Principal's Office on the couch reserved for very special guests.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Maternity Leave

We're pleased to announce that Fiber of Her Being has gone on maternity leave. Our little family is now doubled in size and features two brand-new little girls, Amanda June and Elisa Katherine (fraternal twins).

Check back in with us in late 2009 for your art-quilting needs!

In the meantime, keep up with our family at