Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wednesday Review

First, the name. I like that instead of conjuring up what granola usually does, for me anyway, patchouli and body hair (both in excess) I envision stainless steel ovens.  This is a big plus.

Price: It's $7.50 a pound which is quite reasonable. This comment is not meant to encourage GL to increase its prices.  In fact, if you are GL, skip this part. Given that the ingredients are organic and top notch and the product is hand made by some folks in Brooklyn, its a nice price point. I'd be hard pressed to pay more, it's perhaps worth more, but it's all about me right now.

Shipping: Fast. This is really important when ordering food online as normally you are ordering it because you want to eat it NOW.

Packaging: Brown coffee type bag with a plastic peekaboo window. Nice label, cute design. Ingredients listed in order. My only thought is that a caloric serving size type label is needed. I don't need the whole how many whatever of vitamin A, but, I would like to know how many calories are in how much granola. In this case, ignorance is not bliss.

Flavor: I ordered the Gingersnap and the Coffee and Chocolate flavor. Yum! In fact, despite the healthy things like raw sunflower seeds, my ten year old son LIKED the Gingersnap. I just forbade him to look at it before he tasted it. Not because it looks yuck (see pic) but because it doesn't look like a Ho Ho and therefore would be judged inedible.

The balance of flavor and ingredient is something to behold, nothing overwhelms, at no time are you feeling like you are eating something you have to because it's good for you. The Gingersnap in particular is fantastic. Think gingersnap dipped in milk.

Plus, they don't put too many raisins in it. I can't tell you how many good cereals have been ruined because of raisin overload.

The Coffee and Chocolate flavor has coffee nips in it that have been ground up enough that you don't crack a cap or lodge a nib. What? That's never happened to you? The chocolate is subtle, which i Appreciated, I was a little worried it would be like Cocoa Puffs or something but its all very cohesive.

In fact, cohesiveness is really where Granola Lab excels. I'd imagine they got pretty sick of granola by the time they figured out the right balance.  It's baked perfectly, obviously they signed a pact with Satan or something because that, in homemade granola, is not an easy thing to master.

So there you go, that's your Wednesday  review and it's tasty one too.

UPDATE: I have been in touch with the talented and charming Alex and GL is in the process of writing up a nutritional label. Alex warns that this label may not be great news, as granola is high in calories. I assured Alex that anyone who cares enough to ask is painfully aware of that. The trick is finding granola that is worth the caloric intake, which, I can state with utter conviction, GL's is.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No review today.

Enjoy the holiday and eat lots of pie. We are having rib eye as I finally came to terms with the fact that none of us really like turkey. Dogs included.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Wednesday Review- Fanciful Felties

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. Sometimes when ordering more edgy (for lack of a better word) books on craft you can end up with something terminally hip, so much so as to be useless. 

I like this book. While I'm not apt to use the faces, the general form and ideas are pretty darn swell. Plus, the patterns are FULL SIZE.  I may end up reducing some of them, but I cannot tell you what a joy it is to not have many tiny patterns with "enlarge 200%" on them. That bugs me to no end. In my view, I bought your book now the least you can do is give me REAL patterns.

There are 14 projects in the book and all are very beginner friendly. The instructions are very clear and concise. In non traditional craft books this can be a sticky wicket. The place to impress upon your gentle reader how unique you are is not in the instructions. 

Be casual, be chatty but please, please be concise. 

I'm in love with the houses and it tickled me that she includes different door and window variations.  The majority of the figures are made by attaching the head to the front of the body and then sewing the two body/head pieces together.  This is a method I use whenever possible as sewing the head to the body is one of my least (and most unsuccessful) trials of plush making. 

There is also, for reasons that escape me, a good scone recipe in the back of the book. Not expected, but I'm always up for a good scone recipe. 

I also appreciate that these patterns can be adapted to cottons and other fabrics. Good wool felt is expensive and while I'd love to have heaps of it at my disposal, fact is, it's damn pricey. I'm not sure a quilting cotton weight would suffice, but home decor remnants, something with a bit of substance will stand in nicely. 

All in all, it's a good buy, (I got mine for about $13 from Amazon Fanciful Felties) with some great jumping off projects. Sometimes even those of us who do this for a living need to look at our craft another way. I already have plans for an entire little village...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Juki TL98Q Quilting Sewing Machine

So my Bernina is in the shop. Good thing is she thinks it will only be a couple weeks and not the usual 4 to 6 because well, everyone is holding onto their machine during holiday season.

Plus they will replace the door and the thread holder and service it for about $130 which is less then I was originally told.

In the interim I did something stupid and totally unlike me and bought a cheap ($130) Singer from JoAnn's to have as a back up machine. The minute I took it out I could tell the difference. I know people use them and blah blah and some can't understand HOW anyone can spend $2000 and up on a machine when blah blah.

I am convinced that none of these people have ever used a high end machine. There is a huge difference is quality and workmanship from the bobbins to the casing to the motor. I'm not passing judgment, but it does get my back up when people who choose use low end machine's behave as if using a high end is some crazy choice based on nothing more then a desire to be 'fancy'. I'm pretty sure if they spent a few hours with my Bernina they'd get it. Or at least lose the weird sanctimony.

The Singer was a piece of crap that out of the box refused to work properly and I'm not a sewing novice. Bear in mind I'm also not a part time seamstress, this is a tool I need in order to make what I sell. To make it even better, Joanns won't take the damn thing back, so it's going on Craigslist. I'm sure someone can make it work.


I still needed a back up machine. So I got a refurbished Juki. I prefer to buy refurbished when possible because my experience is that they always work out of the box having been put through rigorous testing. With a higher end machine you aren't saving more then usually $100 but I know it's been tested, oiled and all that good stuff. You still have the warranty, Juki's have a 5 year warranty which is pretty good.

This Juki is a quilting/semi industrial machine. All it does is straight stitch. Which for most of what I do is fine. But, the fantastic things about it are huge foot pedal which also cuts the thread, the pressure foot knee lift and the needle down position.

The needle down position option is crucial for people like me who make plushes. It's a deal breaker and while my Bernina has it, the other Bernina's I was looking at (higher end) don't. That was a bit of a surprise. Juki also has a handy reverse stitch lever and a HUGE extension table. This saves me $45 for the custom inset for my table.

I'm very pleased, it's top quality and aluminum. The extension table is heavy duty thick plastic.

Again, I have nothing against regular old sewing machines, although I will never buy a Singer again. I do think you should buy the best tools you can afford. Do I sound defensive? lol  I'm sure the Singer will make someone very happy, although the reviews I've read since buying it don't bode well.

As for me, I'm satisfied and looking forward to seeing what this little beauty (or not so little) can do. I may even start quilting again...

Juki TL98Q Quilting Sewing Machine

Juki TL98Q Quilting Sewing Machine
The new TL98Q lockstitch machine was developed by Juki to preserve the inspiration and design sewn into every quilt. The TL-98Q performs truly consistent, smooth, even stitching to secure quilt seams.
Today's quilters can now streamline projects as they operate basic sewing functions by foot pedal, simplify chain piecing by raising and lowering the presser foot by knee lift, efficiently trim threads quickly and enjoy a wider work area for larger quilts. The TL98Q sews at high speeds up to 1,500 stitches per minute, is equipped with drop feed, an automatic needle threader, easy bobbin replacement and an extension table as standard. Also provided are two great new quilting feet for free motion and embroidery, a 1/4 seam piecing foot, a walking foot for difficult-to -feed materials, and additional feet for hemming and zipper attaching.

Two Types of Quilting Foot / Drop FeedTwo types of quilting feet are supplied as standard accessories with the machine. A 1/5 Quilting Foot is used for basic quilting and the 1/4 Quilting Foot for precision sewing with 1/4 inch stitch width.
The feed dog can be raised and lowered simply by depressing a switch. When quilting, the drop feed allows you to sew curved stitches with ease.

Even Feed FootWith its reliable feed, the even feed foot ensures the machine's ability to produce beautiful seams when sewing difficult-to-feed fabrics, such as georgette and velvet, as well as heavy-weight materials such as leather.

Automatic Thread TrimmerThe machine is equipped with an automatic thread trimming device that simultaneously cuts the needle and bobbin threads at the sewing end by lightly pressing the push-button. It uses the thread trimming mechanism that is similar to the industrial sewing machine type.

Foot Pedal Switch for Thread TrimmingAs with an industrial sewing machine, the thread trimmer can be activated with the foot pedal switch. It greatly increases sewing efficiency.

Easy Bobbin ReplacementA new bobbin case latch and an enlarged bobbin case are make it easier to remove and replace the bobbin.

Automatic Needle ThreaderThe push lever automatic needle threader easily threads the needle without eye strain and allows you to start sewing quickly.

Knee Lifter LeverThe knee lifter lever allows you to lift / lower the presser foot without using your hands.

Presser Foot Pressure AdjustmentPresser foot pressure can be adjusted according to the fabric being sewn by turning a regulator located on the top of the machine.

Heavy-Weight Materials are Sewn with EaseThe speed control mechanism, operated by microcomputer, allows the machine to sew material at low speeds. This provides for accurate feed and perfect stitching when sewing heavy-weight fabrics, quilting and multiple layers of materials.

Predetermined Stop Position of the NeedleTo move the needle up or down as desired, simply press the needle up/down button. When the button is pressed continuously, the machine sews stitch-by-stitch at low speed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ok, so it's pretty much After without Before.

My husband is a contractor and he had the porch of the house we rent redone into a workspace for me.  Yes, we are the best tenants ever and I can see how some would think it's nuts to do so much work on a rental. But, owning is so far ahead of where we are (thank you suck economy)  that it simply made no sense to sit around and wait for someday. 

Did I start to hyperventilate thinking about what if we had to move or something? Sure, but I do that on a regular basis and really I'm more concerned about Gabriel's school then anything else. 

At some point you have to sit still or make do and I'm really bad at just sitting there. Luckily so is my husband. 

I was using a ten by twelve room upstairs in our very typical Arlington brick house. With bookshelves for fabric, etc. it got really very hot in the Summer and while functional, was not a 'real' workspace. 

Plus I'd be upstairs having to yell down and answer 'Mom?' every three seconds and trying to step over a sea of dog (I have three all averaging 90 pounds who NEED to be right there at ALL TIMES) and having on thing here and another there, well, it was not motivating. 

The porch, while a few feet narrower, is a few feet longer, on the first level and not used at all, really.  Unfortunately, while the dogs have more room to spread out, they still pretty much make a dog rug around my feet. 

The upside being that since it's not so hot, they pant less and I have more oxygen. I'll post some pics of them next week, they are pretty awesome. Right now I have one behind my chair and two on the bed behind the chair. One of them has to stare at me at all times.  Another must have their ear right under the wheel of my chair. It's some sort of built in system they have.

But I digress.

You can click to make larger. 

This is my neglected Suzie Pro. Which I can now use as it's not crammed behind my sewing table.  The last pictures are some (yes, some) of my spinning stash. 

This is a rug I made from one of Gabriel's drawings.

This is a cutting table from JoAnn's. A fabulous thing and one I recommend highly. See that metallic looking pad under the pillow on the table? That's an ironing pad. You use it on any surface, it costs under $12 and you don't need to use an ironing board. Awesome space saver. 

This is the far end of the room. The shelves are built in and on brackets if I want to adjust them. Yes, the room does slant ever so slightly,lol. All porches do. See that shelving in there, on the left? With the stacks of wool? I had to put a shim under the left side because otherwise the slant was so pronounced I felt like I was on a ship.

Cute bins from Target on major mark down. Fleece and what not fabric is on this end with the cottons on the other.

Pics fuzzy, sorry. Under those two windows is where I planted the lavender bushes and the climbing roses (well those were planted but had to be cut back, they are coming around nicely). So when I open the window, next year it will smell lovely. 

This is the machine I'm using while my Bernina gets fixed. Yes, it's a bit of a challenge. 

Over on the door end. All cottons, most half and quarter yards. Those rolling storage things are from the Container Store, try and grab the floor models (I did) and save big bucks. 

Obviously a ceiling fan.

Track lighting he put in after I pointed out that the ceiling fan's 150 watt output just wasn't gonna cut it.

Front of the room, look at my big ass windows! Blinds will go up eventually,lol.

Another view. That purple fabric is a temporary fix until I figure out  how to deal with the dogs going nuts every time someone walks by. Those bins in the middle will go in the basement after I *sob* figure out Photoshop and take pictures and list everything.

I thought I took pics of the before. But, can't seem to find them. Anyhow, it was a basic porch, not enclosed, with a roof. Now it looks like this. The floor is kinda bouncy as Hamid put padding and then plywood and then the cheaply fake wood (we don't own the house, so couldn't rationalise spending $600 on a floor). It's nice because it's kind on one's feet when you are standing for a bit. 

These are great because they have little photo sized (5 by 7) boxes in them. I use them to hold die cut felt shapes, and small felt projects I'm working on. Great storage and great for travel. Plus, you can use the coupon from Michael's and get them way cheap.

All my weaving supplies will stay in one of the upstairs closets. So will the yarn. The looms will stay in what is now the spare room. Wool and roving will remain in the rest of the upstairs closets. This is why I have those whatevers that hold like, eight towels at a time on the back of the bathroom door. At last count it was four closets full.  But they are really small closets....

Oh this is my magnet board. I'm stupidly excited about it.

These are my Ananda Tree price labels. The house and tree and for the House and Home line and the girl is for the children's stuff. They are stamps from The Mayberry Sparrow who has wonderful things, all of which I want, and is a dream to do business with. 

Of course the Ananda tag is affixed to all goods, but these not only make the items a little more special, it's easier for consignment inventory.

It's painted Faraway Blue, which you can't really make out with the photos due to my crap ass skills. That's about it. I don't know how big the room is exactly, here's the outside. UPDATE:  The space is about 8 by 16 feet.   

Typical Arlington post WW2 two story.

Oh and in case you thought I was exaggerating, here are some of the closets.

I'm thinking I may need another addition....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bluegrass and Glass

The artist Annie herself.

A few months ago, I was trying to come up with ideas for a Crafts & Cocktails get together with some of the other creatives at my day job, and I found the most wonderful little party kits on Etsy by a fellow Kentucky artist named Annie Howes.  After much deliberation (she has several different party kits available), I purchased her Glass Pendant kit.  Even with 3-4 pineapple rum concoctions under my belt, I found it to be not only great fun, but instructive.  I was hooked and went back to her shop to see about purchasing more to experiment with, and it was then that I discovered her Ugly Betties.

What is an Ugly Betty?

It's an imperfect glass piece.  Sometimes mis-shapen, sometimes with a bubble or two, maybe not as smooth as Annie's superb AAA grade tiles (which are spectacular).  I ordered a bagful and became thoroughly enchanted by the imperfections.  I love the way they feel.  I love that they look handmade.

I related this to Annie and she invited me up to her studio to go through her bin of seconds.

So yesterday, one of the other Art Directors at my day job (who also happens to be a glass artist of a different sort) and I drove the Bluegrass Parkway so I could hoard Ugly Betties to my hearts content.

Sitting on a country hillside in one of the prettiest parts of Kentucky is a typical home with a typical outbuilding, horses in the pasture, a lovely vista and the hidden gem that is Annie's studio.

I love seeing how other artists put their spaces together, how they organize in the chaos that is ever present, and Annie didn't disappoint.  She is warm and effusive and incredibly smart - and her space reflects that.  I had a little bit of space envy, because my creative chaos is um, 'organized' all over my house, but here was her creative chaos, which was not chaotic looking at all to a fellow artist.  Although she might argue that point...

Shelf after shelf hold her kits and glass and creations,  sorted for easy order packing - everything was at hand.  Her two kilns had glass tiles cooling, and the kiln gave off a nice warmth on a crisp, fall day.  What impressed me most was the piles here and there of things that I knew were works in progress.  I'm a sucker for an artist's process.  

Annie tests every product she sells, every kit she puts together extensively to make certain that we get the most out of her imagination so we can take it and run with it.  I love that.  And she shares her learning process generously.  Right now she is testing glass paints to put together a kit that I am frankly, pretty damn excited about.  

Glass cooling in kiln.
Before we left, I planted myself on a stool and dove into her Ugly Betty bin pretty much head first. I picked though what I knew I definitely wanted but eventually gave in and grabbed handfuls of the cool, smooth glass and just dumped it into my box.

I'm sure she thought I was nuts, because I kept saying 'I love how these FEEL'.  I walked out of there with damn near 10 pounds of the stuff and 1,000 ideas.

And that is what it comes down to.  My crafting habits are all about the tactile experience in many ways.  My soaps, while colorful and fragrant, are a really tactile process.  

Same with the tarts I make.  Equally, jewelry making is another hand-centric endeavor. And now I am playing with these wonderful sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy pieces of glass and turning them into tiny little pieces of art.  I'm sure there is some case that Freud could make about it all, but meh.  I prefer Ruskin's philosophy:

"Life without labor is guilt. Labor without art is brutality"

Annie Howes could have inspired it.

Visit Annie at:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Evil Santa, Martha Stewart and a pack of Chow Chows

Well it figures. Santa hates me. It's obvious. All this time I thought Christmases as a kid sucked because between welfare and an insane Mother well, they sucked.

I know now that the reason Christmas always sucked is because Santa is trying to kill me. I don't know if it's a competition thing, if he feels like my hand crafted goods somehow threaten his mass produced ones, maybe he just doesn't like women, or dogs, or both.

It's the only thing that makes sense, really. Otherwise how would any rational person explain the perfect storm of illness, home remodeling and the break down of an otherwise stalwart sewing machine? Or maybe they could, but faced with the utter lack of motivation on my part coupled with the head exploding learning 'curve' that is Photoshop and picture taking, it's all very clear.

In fact, I bet I was born into a really nice, wealthy family. Santa must have like, a Magic Mirror which foretold of my creative abilities. Sent elves out to look for me, scour the earth and then when they found me, stuck me with a crazy woman.

Who knows? Had I not been cruelly kidnapped and displaced I could have, with my well adjusted parental support and barrels of cash, had my own kick ass Workshop. Maybe even offered those poor Elves a better pay scale and benefits, plus it's a lot warmer here.

Despite Santa's black and evil heart, I did manage to survive. And while I'm years behind where I could have been I make some pretty nice stuff. I figure what happened is Martha Stewart ratted me out. That bitch has always been jealous. Her Chows must have tracked me down (Martha and Chow Chows are like bread and biting butter) despite my own dogs covering me with hair and saliva in an attempt to damp down my scent.

So what does Santa do? It's glaringly obvious. Breaks my machine and uses some weird elven based mind control to remove all my motivation and desire to craft anything more then a, well, anything. Of course, now that I know, I can start to pull myself together.

I'm pretty sure this means listing much for Christmas is a bust. Almost all my Grumpy stuff is on consignment. Santa can't touch that. Although, if I start seeing my monsters mass produced, I'll know who to blame. SO for now, I'm resigned. That sounds so much more noble then burnt out and wanting to kill someone. Which isn't a very 'accepting' set of behaviors.

My apologies to anyone waiting for inventory to be listed. I can't imagine much will before the first week of December. Then I have to get it all up before the Easter Bunny starts in...