Tag Archives: sewing

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Every year I take a little time off around the new year; not quite as long as a full vacation, but a mini-staycation to recharge for the new year ahead. I’m used to working in a building with books and music and movies at my disposal, so before I spend a few days away I go into panic-mode and start trying to think of everything I might possibly need to read while I’m away. Here are a few things that I was into this vacation:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy: I’ve been on a big YA literature kick lately. Between the fast-paced plots, elements of fantasy and magic, and strong female characters, lots of young adult novels just do it for me. This trilogy, in particular, is one worth reading. I’ve been recommending it to friends by saying that although it’s nothing like The Hunger Games, if they liked that series they will like this one. In this series, the princess Elisa has a heavy birthright to live up to, despite the fact that she feels anything but special. Her growth throughout the trilogy and the richly drawn world in which she lives, combined with excellent writing, really won me over.

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual: I’m having a real love affair with our sewing book collection these days. Did you know we have a whole collection of books that have sewing patterns and instructions? I like checking out a pattern book, visiting the Center for Creative Reuse, and seeing what types of clothing I can come up with. This is a fun vintage-inspired book with easy to follow instructions, but I also really like the Japanese pattern books we have in our collection for more modern/bohemian clothing (such as Simple Modern Sewing or I Am Cute Dresses).

Frozen (movie and soundtrack!): I’m not sure why so many kids in the preschool set are so in love with Elsa (I’m an Anna fan myself!), but this movie and soundtrack are just magical for children of that age. They get to sing Let It Go; I get to sew…it’s a win-win situation.

Comfort Knitting and Crochet Afghans: Just before the holidays I came into a huge supply of lovely, soft yarn- enough for an afghan! Because it was all the same color I was on the lookout for a pattern with some texture. I really fell in love with some of the afghans and throws in this book; you get a nice mix of knit and crochet and colorwork, texture, or lace patterns.

The Art of Hungarian Cooking: New Year’s day always makes me think of my (Hungarian, by way of Slovenia) grandmother, who was insistent that you always had to eat pork and cabbage (preferably sauerkraut) on New Year’s Day. She also had this crazy tradition of going outside and finding a green stick and hitting (gently) anyone who came into her house. (I’ve never been able to find out anything about that superstition, nor have I ever met anyone else who’s heard of it!) This year I hosted a New Year’s dinner, and in homage I made sure to cook up some pork and cabbage. I brought this book home for some inspiration.

-Irene

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Get Hands-On in 2014!

During the dark days of winter, I’m tempted to hibernate as soon as I return home from work. Resisting that incredibly powerful urge and heading out to zumba class or a literary lecture or an evening with friends can be so therapeutic.

Doing something creative on those cold, snowy evenings is even more therapeutic. That’s why I can’t wait for the next Hands-On Workshop series to start in 2014. Held the first Tuesday of every month at the Main Library, these free workshops are a chance to learn something new, use your hands and perhaps go home with a unique gift to give to friends and family.

In January, our very own Lisa from the Job & Career Education Center will teach us the wonders of glass etching. The results are so classy, but the steps are truly a cinch. Using contact paper and etching cream, plus some of your creativity, we’ll transform everyday glass containers into custom pieces.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via Creative Commons license.

We’ll provide number, symbol and alphabet stickers for etching names or numbers, as seen here:

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user JamieMarie C via Creative Commons license.

These make great gifts, and can be given as personalized favors at weddings or showers. You’re welcome to bring your own glass items as long as the surface is flat – no quilted crystal jelly jars, for instance – or you can use some of the jars and containers I’ve collected, including this lovely pair:

Photo taken by Rita.

Photo taken by Rita.

The fun doesn’t end there. What a great series of workshops we have in store for 2014!

Is threading a needle impossible for you? Do you want to keep your pants from dragging on the floor? When a button pops off your coat, do you throw up your hands and donate it to charity? If yes, then the February program, Mending 101, is for you. Taught by Jenn Gooch, owner of WERK studio in Lawrenceville, this workshop will show you the basics of sewing repair – no machine required.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Markus via their Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Markus via Creative Commons license.

In March, when winter still has its icy fingers wrapped around us, we can warm up with a tea tasting from Margaret Harris, owner of Margaret’s Fine Imports in Squirrel Hill. She’ll share the history and health benefits of tea, as well as how to prepare it. As with all of our Hands-On Workshops, you can register online for this event.

Photo courtesy of user Takkk on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of user Takkk on Wikimedia Commons.

Bring in your own lidded glass container or use one provided to build a terrarium with Master Gardener Susan Marquesen in April.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user fsamuels via Creative Commons license.

For a dollar or two, you can pick up some nice covered containers at thrift stores, or shell out a little more at stores like Marshall’s. I snagged this for a buck at Goodwill:

Photo taken by Rita.

Photo taken by Rita.

As you can see from this picture, just about anything glass with a lid can be used to make a terrarium…

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Joelk75 via Creative Commons license.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Joelk75 via Creative Commons license.

Any good DIY aficionado in our fair city knows about the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. They prevent lots of items from going to the landfill, and promote reuse of these materials through crafting and other creative projects. Thanks to PCCR, we have hundreds of paint swatches that will make colorful wall art, banners, gift tags – you name it. You could even make a Mother’s Day card at our Hands-On Workshop in May using our paint chip trove.

Photo courtesy of user Iroc8210 on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of user Iroc8210 on Wikimedia Commons.

And last but not least, in June we’ll learn about Japanese techniques of cloth wrapping such as furoshiki. Katsuko, who has volunteered with some of our Japanese programming, will share her expertise in this workshop.

Photo courtesy of Friedensreich Hundertwasser via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of Friedensreich Hundertwasser via Wikimedia Commons.

We’ll see all you makers and crafters in Classroom A at the Main Library in 2014!

-Rita

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Being Fine About Not Being Any Good

I am only one kind of crafty and it’s the kind that gets people to make things for me, not the kind where I make things for myself. Last year, I was given a sewing machine and some patterns by a friend. That’s all I have to say about that. I don’t have the needed attention to detail and patience I think is required for knitting. My fingers are too unwieldy to do anything like origami. I had resigned myself to not being an artsy-craftsy person. Until I discovered that I am an amazing painter.

When I say “amazing”, I mean there’s no screaming and I like it. And by painting, I mean paint-by-numbers and rock painting. During Christmastime last year, I went shopping with my niece with the intent of buying her a book, but we ended up buying three paint-by-numbers kits and a rock painting kit. It took some time to finish the paint-by-numbers, but I was so happy when it was finished.

Look at my art! (It's a sorcerer.)

Look at my art!
(It’s a sorcerer.)

Then I moved onto rocks. I’ve only done two so far, but I’ve noticed that there’s something incredibly soothing about painting a rock. There’s also something incredibly soothing in accepting that I am not a master artist and will never be. The painting isn’t about creating a masterpiece (rock). It’s not about me making some beautiful thing; it’s about me making some thing. It feels so great to create something that I’m thinking about breaking out that dusty sewing machine and making something that may be so horrible I can only wear it when I’m alone.

So if you’ve been wary or unwilling to do something because you think you’re not going to be good at it, join the club. Then read a few books or dive right in with no instructions and join the other club where we knit or paint or sew and make something that may be not so great, but is all yours.

MeandMySewingMachine    Watercolor101      PrintingbyHand

–Aisha

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Heroines

When I’m not dressed as a respectable, professional adult, I’m probably wearing jeans and a t-shirt. This comfortable de facto uniform minimizes the amount of time I have to spend actually thinking about clothes, freeing me up for longer sessions of crafting and baking. It’s also a great way to express my political opinions and pop culture preferences without holding forth at length like a tiresome windbag. When people see my shirts, they’ll know right away whether or not we’ll get along; this, too, is time-efficient and, therefore, pleasing. That may sound silly, but I like to use my time wisely and well.

On the other hand, some of my favorite t-shirts make excellent conversation-starters, and I’m okay with that! My obsession with Marie Curie, for example, and the companion tee with which I express it also show support for women and girls in the sciences. Sporting the Ada Lovelace look gives the same props to women in computer science. And my absolute favorite, the Mary Shelley tee, is a fashionable shout-out to the women of gothic fiction.

There are, however, so many women I admire who do not yet have their own t-shirt, which means I’m going to have to make my own until fashion catches up with my vision.  Here are a few of the many (in)famous women I admire who really should have their own clothing line.

Grace Hopper. The first woman to earn a PhD in mathematics from Yale, and a tenured professor at Vassar, Hopper proceeded to top herself by enlisting in the Navy immediately after Pearl Harbor. The ever-restless Hopper completed officer training and was assigned to the Harvard Computational Laboratory, where her gift for programming, excellent collaboration skills, and prankish sense of humor led to a string of professional successes. Thanks to Hopper we have COBOL and personal computers, so the least we could do is thank her with a spiffy tee, no?

Camille Claudel.  Often unfairly dismissed as the mad mistress of Auguste Rodin, Claudel was a gifted sculptor in her own right. The sensual nature of her work, however, was far more earthy and naturalistic than nineteenth-century French culture could bear, and only Rodin and her father supported her unique artistic vision. However, after a series of personal shocks and the unhappy end of her affair with Auguste, Claudel struggled on alone in poverty until finally her mother committed her to an asylum, where the misunderstood muse remained for thirty years. To the end of her life, however, Claudel remained true to herself and did not compromise her vision. A t-shirt is, perhaps, the very least we could do to honor such strength.

Coco Chanel.  Last, but certainly not least, on my list is the fashion designer closest to my heart.  Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel changed women’s clothing forever by rejecting the fussy, restrictive styles of her day and designing simple, elegant garments made from fabrics in which a person could actually move and breathe! Not content to dabble in clothing, Chanel also created hats, perfume and handbags, first for the friends and relatives of her lovers, and then, as her reputation spread, to Paris society at large.   Ashamed of her humble beginnings, Chanel remained mysterious and private to the end, and her habit of hanging out in graveyards and talking to the dead techincally qualifies her as a first lady of goth. What’s not to love?

Your turn:  whose t-shirt would you wear?  Would you make it yourself, or hire someone crafty to create it for you?

—Leigh Anne

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Santa, Sweetie: Bring Chanel

“Chanel, Dior, Lagerfeld, Givenchy, Gaultier, darling!   Names, names, names!”
–Jennifer Saunders as Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous

Santa, darling:

You’ve never let me down before, so I’m pretty confident you can make my 2009 holiday dream a reality.  All I want for Christmas this year is a little black Chanel suit.

Not Lagerfeld-era Chanel, mind you, though I’ve nothing against the gentleman personally.  But, darn it, I’m a librarian of old-school taste and class. Ergo, I want Chanel Chanel.  The genuine article.  The real deal.  That’s not so much to ask, is it, Santa? Just one, teensy, vintage, piece of classic couture?

Obviously I don’t expect you to bring it straight to my house.  Pittsburgh is simply crawling with fabulous places to find fashion treasures.  So I’ll tell you what, Santa-pumpkin:  I’ll combine my librarian wiles with loads of legwork, and you can just leave the suit somewhere here in town where I’m likely to find it.

Deal, or no deal?

Why don’t you sleep on it, sweetie?  I know this is a really busy time of year for you.  Keep in mind, though, I’m not really asking just for myself.  I’m asking for all the fashionable women here in the ‘burgh who have champagne taste and root beer budgets.  I’m asking for all those women who still don’t know — or just can’t master — the arts of knitting and sewing. I’m asking for everybody who stays positive and works hard.  So what do you say, Santa?  I’ve been saving my pennies; won’t you make me a shiny example of a bona fide Christmas miracle?

Kisses,

Leigh Anne

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‘Tis the [crafting] season…

The other day I had the radio on, and the station was actually playing Christmas carols. Before Halloween. Even if the weather weren’t so unseasonably warm, it still seems a little too early to be hearing Christmas music. However, as someone who tries to make the majority of my holiday gifts, I admit that I begin planning early. Most crafters are probably familiar with that last-minute panic that hits you when you have one gift finished, 12 started, and 3 more yet to start, with only 3 days left to work on them (Right?  Or is it just me?).  That’s why, every year, I try to avoid said panic by starting my gifts early, and selecting projects that are fairly quick to make. This year, lots of people on my list are going to be recieving the “Yellow Harvest” mittens from the Fall issue of Vogue Knitting– they look great, knit up in a matter of hours, and most people can use a pair of mittens.  If, like me, you like to start on your gift-making early, try looking at one of these books:

If history is any indication, by mid-November I will be distracted by something (work? snow? good fiction?), and on December 20 will be frantically trying to figure out how to finish everything on time.  If that happens, you’ll probably find me roaming the TT section of books (the crafting section, for those of you who don’t speak Library of Congress), or frantically reading all of the library’s crafting magazines, trying to figure out what to make (rather than admit defeat and actually buy something, of course!)

–Irene

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