Friday, April 30, 2010

Readjusting my expectations of the meditation center

I saw the small picture on the meditation center website of brightly colored floor cushions near a dark wood-framed rice paper window and made the assumption that the center would be bright and new.  I've been watching too many movies.  As it turns out, the center is in an older downtown building.  The meditation room has a dated acoustic tile hanging ceiling, white walls, vertical blinds, and industrial greenish blueish wall-to-wall indoor-outdoor carpeting.  There is an eclectic collection of floor cushions, chairs, and small tables along with a few pictures in inexpensive frames, a few cloth hangings, and assorted small decorative pieces.  Not a bad place at all.  It's just that it sure wasn't what I had envisioned.

I would probably have adjusted quickly had not a series of tiny incidents set off my inner child.  I had trouble finding the driveway and had to circle around three times.  That's not easy in an area of one way streets.  Then I made the mistake of of almost entering the meditation room with shoes on.  Fortunately, someone quickly pointed out my ignorance.  I know many people have the no shoes policy in their homes.  I've not been one of them.  Yes, I have occasionally passed the no shoes mandate after a particularly hard day of cleaning.  However, I was always the first one to break the new rule within hours.  

On entering the meditation room (sans shoes), I immediately saw that some of the floor cushions had been marked as reserved.  Reserved seating always annoys me for some reason unless, of course, I get to sit in it.   But, I was determined to keep the inner child in check.  I graciously moved on.  Well, maybe not exactly graciously.  I didn't try to take one of the reserved seat, though.  

You know how no one wants to sit in the front row in class?  No one wants to sit on the front floor cushions either.  All the back cushions were taken when I got there.  My choices were to sit on a cushion in the front row or on one of the chairs lined up along the back wall.  Normally this is not a problem for me.  I'm a die-hard brown-noser.  I LOVE the front row.  The problem here was that I  wasn't sure HOW one was supposed to sit on the cushions.  There were different kinds of cushions, flat round ones, boxy foam ones, cushions on cushions.  Some people were sitting cross-legged.  Some had their feet facing back. What if I sat on a cushion wrong?  Everyone would see me right there in the front row.  I had already almost broken the no shoes rules.  I opted for a chair.  By that point, I was a tired, frustrated and, yes, a bit pouty.  

The session was supposed to start at 7:30, but we waited an extra half hour in near silence for stragglers.  I am a firm believer in starting on time.  If the show is supposed to start at 7:30, I expect it to begin at 7:30.  I certainly don't want anyone waiting for me if I'm late.  By the time the main speaker began the lecture at eight o'clock in a lovely soft voice,  I was really annoyed, more than a bit pouty,  and falling asleep.  My eyes started drooping closed almost immediately.  I spent the next hour desperately trying to keep my eyes opened and preferably focused. 

Tomorrow I will be there from 8:30 until 5.  I've already paid so I've got to see this through.  I'd go in late, but I need to get there early enough to get one of those highly sought-after floor cushions in the back rows.  Do you know how hard it is to sit cross-legged on a metal chair?  My greatest fear is that I will fall asleep and keel over.  I'm not sure if Buddhists do caffeine, but I'm sneaking in some Red Bull anyway.  Wish me luck.

The meditation weekend begins!

I'm starting my weekend meditation lessons tonight at a meditation center in Albany, New York.  The program is called Shambhala Meditation Training Level 1:  The Art of Being Human.  Who knew being human was an art?

So, I've read about meditation, listened to many tapes on meditation, attended one introduction to meditation talk long ago, and practiced meditating in spurts over the years.  This is my first real live training session.  I've decided it is time to invest in my own well being.  The family has been most supportive of this venture.  I wonder if that means I am more uptight than I realized.  Well, never mind that.  Not only am I embarking on an new adventure, I am doing it alone--no human crutches. 
If I am not too relaxed after this evening's session, I shall post about it.

Bedtime book hanger

My niece, Binnie, came up with the idea for this project, and I got to find the embroidery design, and sew it.  There is a plastic sheet usually used for hand embroidery sewn into the back for strength and to keep the shape. The ribbon handle can hang on a door knob, hook, or drawer pull.  For the next one, I will probably use cording instead of ribbon--books can be heavy!

The embroidered section in front is a pocket for small books that sits on top of a larger pocket for bigger ones.  Binnie's idea was for the kids to not only have a place to put the books they have chosen for bedtime reading, but also to give them a sense of  independence and control.

I did the embroidery for the book bag on my Brother Pacesetter. I do love that machine. I had it in for a tune-up recently, and the guy acted as though I had brought in an original Singer pedal machine.  It's not THAT old! It does both regular sewing and embroidery incredibly well.  I will not be replacing it despite the repair person's nasty insinuations.
The Three Pigs

It is rather fitting that I made this since I almost always give Binnie's kids books as gifts. If you are thinking of getting some little person a book, take a look at David Wiesner's Three Little Pigs He does the traditional tale in a whole new and fun way.  It's not your mama's three little pigs tale!  

You all can probably figure out the design if you want to try one.  Give a shout in the comment section if you need any info.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What happens when you mix candles and pin cushions?

I've made a number of pin cushions from simple cloth to the ornate teacups variety.  But I really like the gritty stuffing in the plain old traditional tomato pin cushions.  I am convinced that gritty texture keeps my pins sharp.  Unfortunately the tomato pin cushions are so light weight that picking out a pin sometimes resulted in picking up the entire pin cushion, too.  I also have a near obsession for scented candles, so I had a few left-over glass tops from jar candles sitting around my sewing room.  Hmmmm.....Voila! My new favorite pin cushion was born.

I used a hot glue gun around the rim of the inverted candle top and sat the lovely but lightweight, store-bought pin cushion on top.   It kind of spins if it is sitting on a wood surface, but I like that.  It prevents me from sticking all the pins in one area.  You could put some felt or silicon cushions on the bottom if you didn't want the spinning. 

Wandering into a Yankee Candle shop can be an expensive trip for me.  Their vanilla lime scent is my new favorite.  Adirondack Candles has some amazing scents as well, and they last forever.  Their Adirondack Lodge scented candle is on my permanent wish list. Adirondack candles are harder to find, but you can check them out online here.

Newest sewing adventure - the slouch bag from Akiko Mano

This is actually a pic of the refinished bag with longer handles.
Using Picnik resulted in the loss of some of the original blog photos
 at some point.   I've gone through and replaced them where I could
or used others when I could not!
My only complaint about Akiko Mano's book, Linen, Wood, Cotton:  25 Simple Projects to Sew with Natural Fabrics is that there was no errata sheet included when I bought it.  Fortunately, I found the errata information here.  The changes needed are simple and clear.  While making the slouch bag, I suspected that the handles were too short and that the directions for putting the top pieces together were not quite right.  Since I tend to be a bit spatially challenged, however, I went with the pattern.  The bag, as you can see from the picture, looks great in any case.  It JUST fits on my shoulder, though.  I'm going to redo it with longer handles next week.  It's a quick project.  I finished it in about two hours.

Quick semi-tutorial on reupholstering the "that's so nineties furniture"

I saw that commercial with the denim furniture designed by Cindy Crawford and loved it--the furniture.  Buying it was not going to happen, though.  So, having tackled reupholstering before, I decided to do it again.  This set used to be a well-worn gray and mauve, stripes and flowers set from around 1995.  The kind everyone is selling on Craigslist.

Reupholstering is time consuming, but not really difficult even if you've never done it before. The sewing required is almost exclusively of the straight line variety.  And, it can be relatively inexpensive.  The fabric for this whole set was around $175 using coupons and sales.  I still had enough to make pillows, the lap quilt on the back of the sofa, Elliot (star of my last post), and further crowd my sewing room stash. This is not an in-depth, step-by-step tutorial, but, rather, an overall guide including information I have gleaned from my many early mistakes.  I hope that this will make the process easier for others who will be taking on the challenge.  There are tons of videos on the web showing the specifics such as sewing on piping. Start with a small chair!

Among the mistakes I made with earlier pieces was avoiding things that I thought would make the job more difficult such as the piping and skirting.  Those things turn out to be far easier that I thought they would be and are the very things that make the furniture look like professionals did it.  Check out the front of the arms and cushions here!

and here:

I am NOT a great seamstress.  I sew very little clothing because it more often than not doesn't turn out so well.  Doing the piping actually makes my corners which are not always so great look much better. Skirting is little more than some folds of fabric, filled with stiff fabric, and stapled in place.

As for the how-to part, most of what you need to know you will learn in the process of deconstructing the original fabric.  I take apart the pieces and use that fabric as a pattern.   Use a seam ripper to take apart the cushions AND LABEL EACH PIECE.  You can write right on the old fabric.   Use a narrow screwdriver to dig out the fabric stapled to the wood frame AND LABEL IT.  Can you see what one of my early mistakes was from those caps? 

Take pictures of the construction prior to deconstruction.  Take pictures of seams on cushions near the zippers, any pleats in the fabric around the arms or cushions, the fabric UNDER the cushions, the back of the furniture pieces.  Note what pieces of wood the arm and base seat fabrics are stapled to and whether the base seat fabric goes on first or the arm fabric.

Careful deconstruction is as time consuming as construction, but it is well worth it. It's a great activity to do while watching television or listening to books on CD.   I listened to Christopher Moore's Fool on CD while deconstructing this set.  It is without a doubt one of the funniest (in a very bawdy and wild way) I've listened to and the reader is perfect for the book.

Iron your "pattern" pieces so they will lie flat.  In order to have a more symmetrical piece, fold the "pattern" pieces at the center--almost everything will be the same on both sides aside from, possibly the zipper sections-- and place the center on a fold of the new fabric.  Sometimes the original fabric has stretched through use or in deconstruction so that they are no longer symmetrical.

Label each newly cut pattern piece as well.  You might want to use small pieces of paper and pin them on for this.  Remember that the fabric needs to be taut in the cushions and to pull firmly when stapling pieces on.  Fabric has some stretch and will loosen with time.  If the cushions are loose, resew a seam or two. 

Supplies and materials:
  • First, if at all possible reuse the original piping material, zippers, stiff materials in the skirting, cardboard strips in the edges (you will find them in the process of deconstructing),  the fabric under the seat cushions, and, of course, the cushions.  It is likely that they are a better quality than what you will get at the store, they are free, and you're recycling! So, be careful with the deconstruction.  I haven't had luck reusing the nail strips (again, you will find them if you don't know what they are), but you can buy them at Joann-kinds of stores, online, or maybe use upholstery tacks from the same sources.  Tacks look great on some pieces.
  • Use a heavy fabric and plain old thread.  Joann's often has upholstery fabric on sale.  I've had good luck, though, with  the heavyweight denim from the regular fabric section for this set and for cushions on an old church pew.  In my first attempt at reupholstering, I used fabric on sale that was a style already on the way out.  My "new" furniture was out of style at birth.  I try to find fabrics with staying power in the style department--something that will not make you think of eras gone by as in, "that's so eighties."  You might also need some batting if your furniture is well worn to smooth out cushions, arms, etc. 
  • You will need a seam ripper, heavy-duty stapler, staples long enough to get well into the wood of your furniture, thin screwdriver to get out the old staples (and misplaced new ones), and a hammer for the staples that need a little extra help getting in tightly.  
  • You need a sewing machine that will handle fairly heavy fabric. I have found that most of them do just fine.  I have used an old Kenmore and some newer Brother machines that were all fine.  If you don't have one check with friends.  So many people have machines they are no longer using.  They might be willing to let you use it, sell it cheap, or even given it away. 
My final advice:  don't be a perfectionist.  No one is going to pull out cushions to see how well your zippers are sewn in.   If they do, they are either not friends or very insecure.  And if you are the insecure one, stifle the need to point out what you feel are flaws when people are complimenting you on a job well done.  I have found mistakes during deconstruction by the professionals that are comparable to mine such as pieces of fabric sewn together to compensate for fabric cut too short.  Do be willing to use the seam ripper (carefully), however, if you think it is worthwhile to resew something.  Take your time, don't rush it.

I'm new at this sharing by blogging.  If there is something that needs to be stated more clearly or corrected, please feel free to let me know.  I'd be glad to clarify anything, and someone else may benefit from the correction. 

I'd love to hear from others who do this.  Feel free to add advice in the comments. If you are encouraged to give it a try, I'd love to hear how it worked out, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My version of John Murphy's monster plushie

In the fall I watched John Murphy's video tutorial on making monster plushies at Threadbanger's site.  By the winter holidays, I had the time and courage to attempt my own.  These are the first two I did.

Since the fabric used for the arms and part of each one's ears was called cheetah fabric, I  named them Tiger and Elliot.  I guess everyone can figure out how Tiger got his name.  If you are from New York State or really into politics, you may understand where Elliot got his.  Since these were not for little kids I went with button eyes.  Elliot had bloodshot eyes (much as he namesake's) as you can see here.  Yes, he is a blue blood.

I decided to birth some more of these for newly arrived grandchildren of my book club members, and Tattletales were born.  I do consider that my monsters are born rather than made.  They take on personalities.  I swear they do.  These new sweet things tattle on the new owners like Addison's below:

Yes, that says, "Addison did it.  Babies have it way too easy.  These little monsters will toughen them up.  I gave this one embroidered button eyes for safety purposes.   I think they look just as nice as the real buttons.  There is the added advantage of using the little beast to help with learning colors.  The nest came from a pattern by Michael Miller that you can find here.  THEY call it a soft basket rather than a nest.  There are a number of  great tutorials on the right side of the website.  Just scroll down to the "soft basket" one that I think should be called a nest. 

This tattletale was for Reid:

He has felt eyes sewn on that give him a bit of a condescending attitude with those droopy eyelids.  I decided to make his feet the same as the hands.  I like that three-fingered and toed look best.  Actually his feet tuck quick nicely into the basket, but I wanted to show his adorable toes.  Eli's tattletale sneaked out before I got his picture.  I'll have to see if I can get the family to take a picture.  If he behaves as badly as Elliot, they have probably thrown him out on the street.

Elliot is still with me.  My nephew, Randy, takes him home occasionally, but he tells me that Elliot behaves so badly he has to keep bringing him back.  Randy has, however, been teaching Elliot how to play lacrosse.  Or perhaps Elliot stole the equipment from Randy.  I'm not quite sure.  That is Elliot's mother in the background, the couch.  They are indeed cut from the same cloth.  Stay tuned for the story of the reupholstered furniture coming to this blog soon.

I got John Murphy's, "Stupid Sock Creatures:  Making Quirky, Lovable Figures from Cast-off Socks.  I'll post my first creation soon. I've had a bit of trouble gathering socks.   It's amazing how attached people are to their socks.  People react badly when asked to part with their them, especially the striped ones.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mixed Media Collage from Kim and Kris at

Just in time for Mother's Day--here is a link to a video by Kim and Kris on creating a collage of photos and other things on an inexpensive canvas frame.  The results are impressive.  The process seems easy, quick, and quite inexpensive.  As you will see, the requirements are a canvas, some decoupage paste, photos printed on a laser printer using regular photocopy paper, and a few crafty things like flowers, beads, or really anything number of things you might want to glue on to personalize the collage. I don't have a laser printer or a good friend with one willing to let me use up their color ink cartridge.  As suggested, I will be using the big box office supply store.

I'm looking forward to creating one (or two).  I'll post the results.

Promises to live by

Just a quick entry here.  One the blogs I frequent, Kind Over Matter,  has a wonderful piece from Christian D. Larson posted that serves as a succinct reminder of  ways we can best navigate life.    Just click here.  I hope you will like it as much as I did

I have a frame on my desk where I keep whatever inspirational writing appeals to me at the moment.  It changes frequently.  At present, there are three about change. I don't remember where they came from, but they may well have come from Kind Over Matter.  Since I often have trouble dealing with change, both in accepting the need to move on from abruptly changed plans and from long-term situations that are not longer working, these have worked well for me.   The quote from Alan Cohen says:

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.  There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power." 

Anais Nin's advice is:  

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through.  Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.  This is a kind of death.

And from Georg C. Lichtenberg:

I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I finally did it!! I have a blog! I have continually said to my husband, "I really want to start a blog." He has continually responded, "Great idea. You should do that." The prospect of starting, however, always seemed sooo overwhelming. I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Everything has to be researched in depth before I can begin. What if I wrote something that had errors in it? What if no one cared about what I had to say? It would be all out there for EVERYONE to see! But yesterday I was reading Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. Not only did she admit to sharing some of my doubts, but she really did start a blog. Thanks to Gretchen there will be no more blog procrastinating. This may not look exciting right now, but I am determined to learn as I go with this.

Why do I have a blog? There are a number of reasons. First, I like to write even though, as I said, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I edit to distraction and agonize over any errors that still manage to get through. One of my goals is to write and just let it go. I will try to do it as well as I can and will accept the errors as gracefully as possible.

I also want to find kindred souls that share my interests in sewing, crafts, books, home maintenance, writing, photography, and life in general. I love my family, but they really don’t want to talk about how difficult it is to gather appropriate fabrics for a quilt. I love my book club members, too. We can only get together once a month, though.

In addition, I really appreciate other bloggers who have taken the time to share. They have given me so much inspiration. Sometimes the simplest ideas have helped me make life easier, create something beautiful, find the perfect solution to a dilemma, even be a better person.

Last, I sometimes forget how much I really do accomplish. This blog will serve as a record of all the successes and even failures I have in the course of just living. I’m hoping that someone out in the vast web world might benefit from them as well.

Consider reading The Happiness Project. While I am only a quarter of the way through, I have already found interesting ideas, encouragement, justification for some of the ideas I have long held, and greater understanding of how we, as human beings, interact with one another. I am going to read this though quickly because I hate putting it down. Then I am going to read it again with a highlighter and a notebook in hand (more likely a laptop in hand) so that I can go check out at some of the many resources Gretchen mentions. There are few—very, very few—books that I willingly read twice. The only other one that comes to mind right now is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Look at that! Two book suggestions in my first blog entry.