Friday, June 29, 2007

eye candy friday -- happy endings

Today it's more like follow-up Friday. I've been intending to post the prizes I made for the contest winners for a while. If you know me personally, you might recognize that the photography studio where I shot each prize was my car. It took me so long to settle down and get the prizes made that I zoomed them to the post-office hot off the sewing machine. I posed them on/in my car and snapped a few before dropping them in the mail. This is not something I can do now. My car looks like it's been through an Alabama mud slide. Seriously, it's so dirty I'm thinking about selling it. Kinda like when you buy new underwear when the thought of doing laundry is too daunting. Or is that just me?

sweater tote with lotus flower cutouts -- for kellz

zippered, embroidered pouch -- for grace

Both recipients sent me the nicest e-mails once they (um, finally) got their loot. The next time I do a contest, I'll make the prizes beforehand. But at least I'm good for 'em. :)

Fun stuff to make, especially the pouch, because I don't have much experience with zippers or linings. When I finished it, I realized it still needed something. Natalie and I happened to be getting our make on at her house that day, so I asked her if she maybe had any beads or leather cord or anything interesting to embellish the zipper pull. She whipped out a freakin' 2 foot tall jewelry making station, complete with gorgeous beads, tools, wires, everything. Ya gotta love crafty gal like that.

Speaking of the Natster, she's doing the most amazing thing, a yogathon. Starting tomorrow morning, she'll be striking poses all day long and throughout the night for the benefit of Habitat for Humanity. She'll finish on Sunday. So far, she's raised over a thousand dollars for the cause. I'm beyond proud of her. Natalie, you're an inspiration.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

christmas in june

Ah, finals week. A backbreaking combo of marathon grading, herculean test writing, and laboring under the whip of students' demands, sob stories, and protestations.

Finals were last week at my job. This week is "vacation." I use the term loosely because I'm still grading and preparing for next quarter, which starts Monday. Alas, the life of a career college educator has its rewards, but rest periods are not among them.

To top off the usual scramble (which always comes accompanied by my declaration to find a new teaching job that at least affords me summers off and I will I tell you, I will), the end of spring quarter has brought with it the departure of both my teaching assistants. They are moving on to greener pastures at other schools. They've been invaluable to me, without them there's no way I could've managed tests and paperwork for six to eight classes per quarter. Not to mention the fact that they are great young women and plain fun to be around.

I wanted to show them how much I appreciate them, so I decided to give them last year's Christmas gifts.

When Christmas rolled around last year, I thought, Hey, I need to get out there and put my nose to the grindstone and make Heather and Ana, my TAs, some super nifty tote bags. I got this robust idea about a month before the holiday. Of course I hotfooted it to my beloved Michael Levine's to buy fabric for the projects first chance I got. I gathered everything else I needed hither and yon, including patterns and directions on how to make a tote, which I'd never done. I could've come up with two rectangles and a strap on my own, but notice I wanted to make "super nifty" totes, which meant trolling the Internet for ideas, instruction, and inspiration.

Before long I returned to a Craftster project I had bookmarked. It's one of Craftster's most all-time popular posts, The Jordy Bag. Before and since deciding to make it, I've eyed this project a zillion times. People are forever creating beautiful, inspired versions that cause my mouth to water.

My only problem with The Jordy was that the tutorial is a bit general when it comes to measurements and techniques, so I knew I'd have to put my thinking cap on (plus I can't see a couple of the details in the photos, curse these 41 year old eyes). But it's very well done, especially seeing as no one has to offer a tutorial at all (people could be like Look what I made. Eat your hearts out), but many do, out of sheer generosity.

The thinking cap part meant I was more daunted than I should have been, but you have to understand that no matter how many times I read a pattern or a tutorial, nothing means anything to me unless I'm working it with my hands. The golden rule of knitting and sewing is to read a pattern all the way through before starting, but I never do, because it's all Greek until I'm in the throes. Join that with the fact that I don't like to waste my precious time with admittedly important things like muslins and swatches and, well....

These are the totes, amid the post crafting frenzy wreckage.

Christmas came and went and these "mystery gifts" kept changing holidays. I'd joke to Heather and Ana that they'd be getting them for Dr. King's birthday, Presidents' Day, Black History Month, Valentine's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Gay Pride Month, National Yo-Yo Day -- you name it.

Their departure obviously meant it was thinking cap time now, at this most inopportune moment. But this is what happens when you're a "deadliner," as this month's Better Homes & Gardens describes people like me who tend to wait until they're in crisis mode to fire into hardcore action. If there's no crisis, we create one, by waiting.

Yesterday we went out for our last lunch before Heather and Ana go.

This is why Sunday morning found me lying in bed, having the following dialogue with myself--

Me: Get up, you, and make those infernal tote bags.
Myself: No. I can't, it's too late. Why don't I buy them something? Target opens early.
Me: If you buy something, it'll bug you forever. You know how you are about not finishing the things you start.
Myself: No, really. I've changed. I truly don't care.
Me: You do care.
Myself: I don't, seriously. Okay. What about sweater totes? I'll give them the two hanging in my closet. They never saw me carrying them.
Me: What are you, nuts? Make the totes so you can get rid of the fabric and buy more.
Myself: Well, since you put it that way...

My Jordys measure about 16" x 14". The straps are about 41" x nearly 3" (messenger style). It took me from 1pm on Sunday to 4am Monday morning, then 6:30am to 11am Monday afternoon to get them done. (Lunch was at noon, just to show you how fast and loose I like to play it). This is with lots of "think breaks" thrown in. Plus, I made a few doofless mistakes, like using the stretchy burgundy t-shirt fabric that I knew was a no no the minute I purchased. I wound up having to re-line the striped bag with a new black pillowcase.

Another thing that took time was the patches. I used iron-on transfer paper to transfer images to acrylic felt. I used a fusible adhesive to place the patches, then embroidered around them. I found both images after an extensive Internet search at the time I decided to make the totes. If I haven't mentioned it, I work at a court reporting/stenography school. I'm the grammar instructor but before I got the job I knew zilch about the field. This is the case all over the place. It wasn't easy to find CR related cartoons, photos, anything. These two are the best of what I came across.

Heather and Ana really loved them, because it is so rare to find items that promote their field. Ana liked how the steno pad has exactly the same keys as hers (who knew?). I'm partial to the mystery novel patch. I think it's pretty cool.

I got lucky because my printer prints in black and white but when you start talking about color, it hears "magenta." Only magenta. I don't know what its problem is. Thinking low ink might be it, I did an emergency run to Office Depot but they didn't carry the inks I needed. I'd dearly wanted to do the mystery novel patch in color, but looking at it now I like the graphic nature of the b&w, especially against the striated black denim. Thankfully, magenta was the magic color for the striped tote.

Here are the linings. Nothing exciting with the black, but don't my feet look like two ghosts in the distance?

Last but by absolutely no means least, here are my TAs, my friends, Ana and Heather, with their new totes.

As Mr. Mister would say, kyrie eleison down the road that they will travel.

Friday, June 22, 2007

eye candy friday -- city pond

Behind a commercial office building in the tangle of the urban jungle I call home, some kind souls had the insight and generosity to put a pond. It's about a ten minute walk from my apartment, tops, and I go there quite often. The Bubs and I used to take daily trips there. It's soothing to the point of mysticism. Cars go by. The buzz of city life surrounds it. But when you go there, sit and listen to the waterfall, watch the turtles and the fish, you forget where you are.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

see the man do his thing: afrogalactic postcards

For years now, my husband has been working with a wonderful filmmaker named Cauleen Smith. Some years back, Cauleen did a feature called Drylongso. It's a narrative film, but, like most of her work, it has a supernatural bent. My husband isn't in Drylongso, but he's acted in a number Cauleen's subsequent works. The ones I've linked, Afrogalactic Postcards, are among my favorites. They tell a continuing story of an alien communicating with the only other of his kind on the planet. A metaphor for the African-American experience? Yes. Really good short-shorts that make me very proud of The Bubs as an actor? You bet. Check out the second and third ones, "Elastic Soul" and "The Other Side," first. All four are great, but I can't stop digging those two.

Afrogalactic Postcards

Saturday, June 16, 2007

eye candy friday -- 3rd st laundry

Hey. It's the Saturday Night Edition.

Gracie is a tough act to follow and I really wasn't inspired by anything else enough to call it eye candy.

Until now, that is.

With Laundromats, I have a hate/hate relationship with a deep fascination chaser. I never, ever want to go but once I'm there, something about these places intrigues me.

3rd Street Laundry is probably my all-time favorite. When I lived in Harlem, Steven and I favored this place on Lenox Avenue. It was the cleanest laundry in our neighborhood and it was across the street from a cafeteria-style restaurant that had a decent buffet. Some Sundays we'd do the wash and head over for a meal during the dry cycle.

The only hitch was that we'd have to be back at the laundry the minute our clothes stopped drying or risk getting cussed out -- by other patrons and the attendant. The place was small and often very crowded and if a patron was to try to use more than, say, two machines at a time all hell could break loose. Steven and I took to taking offerings to the attendant so she'd be on our side and let us slip in an extra wash if no one was packing heat.

Laundry in Harlem required cunning, to say the least.

But 3rd Street is a bright spot in my thousand bitter years of washing my drawers in public. It's never too crowded (although yesterday was my first time there on a Friday and I think that's the day somebody declared the Hipsters' Holiday 'cause all the cool kids were washing their dungarees). Not only are there paper towel dispensers but those dispensers are invariably filled with a roll of lovely, crisp brown paper towels. The sink works. The place is old but any out-of-order machines have signs and if they don't fall in line they're replaced with newer models. The coin machine runneth over. All the washers and dryers take its old-fashioned quarters, unlike the new wave of scam-o-mats that require patrons to purchase and fill plastic cards to stick in the machines. Cards that come with a no refund policy, so if you're dying of thirst and need a little silver so you can buy a soda, tough titty. These have become the order of the day in Harlem.

At 3rd Street, there's never an attendant monitoring how many machines I'm taking up. This is good, because lately I've always got something to felt or some fabric to wash, as in some crafty business occupying extra washers. I figure I make up for this with the fact that I'm not there nearly as often as I ought to be.

Who owns 3rd Street? Who's in charge of the place? I don't know. No one ever seems to be running anything. Times I've been there right before closing I've seen a couple of cleaning people, always older Mexican women, sometimes with a kid helping out, but I don't recall seeing the same woman twice. There's also a resident homeless guy. He washes clothes from a duffel bag and folds them with precision. While his things cycle, he combs his hair and puts on deodorant. He carries a radio and plays old-school R&B. He's there a lot. But I don't suppose he's the owner.

I am left to assume it's owned by the same people who own the connected dry cleaners, whoever they might be.

Once I was there late, at closing, and all alone I felt vulnerable. That night I wanted to know these owners, wanted them to show up, to stand near the doors and protect me. Other than that night, I like 3rd Street's anonymity. I like the feeling that I've got propriety over the machines and free reign over the paper towels (which is why the hipsters bugged me. Don't they know 3rd Street is mine?). I like that no one ever tells me differently.

Monday, June 11, 2007

the purl bee and me

Everybody loves baby feet!

I thank you guys so very much for all the Gracie love. She's just the most adorable thing and I 'm glad I got a chance to see her while she's so little. Now I'll be able to use my grandmother's term and say to her when she's older, Girl, I've known you since you were a kickin' baby.

I didn't get a chance to post about it over the weekend, but on Friday, The Purl Bee featured my question as part of its "Ask Purl Bee" column. They wrote a great response that includes a fantastic tutorial. Go check it out. You just might find it useful.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

eye candy friday -- gracie bea in february

Last week I wasn't much in the mood for eye or any other kind of candy and I know I have a responsibility to make up for that. Luckily, I've got the mother of all eye candy in my bag of tricks.

Feast on this:

Oh my god! It's Gracie Bea! And she's wearing her February Baby Sweater!

Seriously, who can stand it? This baby is utterly adorable and, would you believe, at only 7 months, full of personality? I was soooo happy to meet her. I wanted to steal her but my friend Sandra, who drove me from NYC to the outskirts to see Gracie and her mom, would not let her go. Every time Gracie whimpered, Sandra would bulldoze me and Deatra (the child's mother, for cryin' out loud!) to snatch her up. It was all good, though, because I'll be getting more time in ASAP. Plus, I have to admit, the two of them did have chemistry.

I kept asking D where she got such a perfect little person. You know somebody for years and then, all of a sudden, you see her in a completely different light when she becomes a mother. I loved seeing my dear, dear friend living her dream of motherhood. She's so good at it. I knew she would be, but it was nonetheless a beautiful wonder to behold.

Oh, something funny. The second you pull out a camera, Gracie gets ready. I'm told it's because her dad stalks her like a paparazzo. She wasn't the least bit fussy about posing in the sweater. She did, however, christen it with YoBaby and pureed pears. This made me very happy. When it happened, I thought, It's truly hers, and she can live in it. I love that.

Mother of God. Look at those feet.

The blue February Sweater is hanging out over in my new Etsy shop, hoping to find a home.