Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy birthday to the Father!

The Mother gets a lot of play round these parts, mainly because her interests align with mine so well. But any creativity I may have comes from both of my parents. The Father definitely has a creative streak, which sometimes brings out his inner engineer in bizarre ways.

For instance, what makes this lamp sparkle in the "after" photo?


None other than automotive engine paint. You might think it's just for jazzing up the V8, but not the Father. When he saw the under-$10 lamp the Mother had found for me at a junk shop, he knew it needed a paint job (that was obvious), but he also knew regular spray paint wouldn't stand up to the heat of the bulbs sizzling in metal shades. Ugly as the "before" version was, I didn't think there was any way to keep the detail of it—the lamp had three colours, including one metallic, and that sounded like a royal pain to repaint. But the Father disassembled the whole thing, sandblasted the hell out of each part (or maybe sanded them? At any rate, each piece was smooth as new), primed everything, and then sprayed each piece individually in one of three colours of engine paint. For the silver metallic, he even taped off rings in the center bit of the neck (where the three arms meet) to do detail work that not only replicated the original colour scheme but also added new detail! I couldn't believe it. If you look closely, you can catch lamps just like this (sometimes with different shades) on TV-show sets or at flea markets, but I've never seen one look this good, especially considering the deal we got on it (we probably spent more on paint than on the actual lamp!).

In the same vein, the Father was also responsible for repairing this lamp from an antique mall in Ohio. See how the base lights up as well as the shade?

a feat of engineering

We only discovered that it did this after buying it, but the base wasn't working. So the Father disassembled the whole thing again and determined that it must be a three-way socket running the show. He eventually figured out how to jury-rig a new socket—I distinctly remember him snapping off bits of it in mad scientist fashion—so the switch would turn on the base, the shade, or both in sequence. I don't know how he did it, but it's pretty impressive. And he was giddily impressed with his own handiwork, as I recall.

Happy birthday, the Father! You're the greatest.

PS—I'll stop bragging about my family now. I promise.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Welcome to the boudoir

our dresser

Finally, a sunny day! I've been trying to photograph our bedroom as it deblandifies, but it's been too grey outside for decent pictures.

We live in a dull, anonymous apartment complex (because we live in a dull, anonymous town—well, I suppose being a crime capital isn't dull exactly...), so we have to inject personality into the apartment ourselves if we want any at all. There are so many bloggers out there with beautiful houses to go with their beautiful photos of their beautiful stuff; our stuff, on the other hand, has to outshine our lame digs.

our bedroom

Curtains are hard to photograph, but you can see the ones I made at the edge of the photos. I got a great end-of-bolt deal on the barkcloth and used every inch of it. For anyone who hasn't sewn curtains, beware! Sewing what seems like a simple rectangle can be a major pain in the rump. It's not so much the sewing as the measuring, though working out how to sew a blind hem for the first time made me a little cranky too. Gertrude's manual was virtually useless, as usual; this was much easier to follow.

The smaller set of pillows on the bed were a much simpler job (though not as simple as the big ones farther back, stitched by the elves at Ikea). We found the barkcloth at an antique shop here in town, and it came in two strangely shaped pieces. I'm still trying to come up with a use for the remaining long strips, since I love the print so much. The colour works splendidly with the flamingo quilt.

The Other and I had been grumping since we moved in that we had nothing suitable for over the bed, so we were thrilled to find this painting at Deco the Halls in San Francisco last month.

bird and sunshine painting

It comes from 1973 Manila, according to the back of the canvas, and makes the room feel much livelier. It was affordable too—not always the case at those Modernism shows—though the thrift stores in town have spoiled us with really good deals on things we completely don't need for just a couple bucks....

Royal typewriter

coffee pot with lemon and orange

The dresser in the first couple photos was also a local thrift find (I made the other bedside table with plans from Todd Oldham's Handmade Modern), so perhaps I shouldn't talk so much trash about this town. If it'd just give me a decent bakery, I'd be satisfied.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Christmas catch-up: what I got

snowflake pillow from Youngest Brother

Mine weren't the only needles busy last month. For starters, check out this snowflake pillow that Youngest Brother gave me for Christmas! It was his first crack at machine sewing, which he claims he picked up out of boredom (what was that about the thought that counts?). The pillow's made from fleece, and I think he got the pattern from Quick Quilts. How great does it look? Felis Domesticus loved it too—the foul creature soils every new fluffy object with a coating of her fur—so I had to move it from her chosen throne to this chair, where it looks rather smashing against the orange.

Dieter, finally at home

You may have seen this sock creature designed and made by Youngest Brother before, but the Mother had been holding it hostage. So now that Dieter's finally in our clutches, here he is occupying another of Felis Domesticus's favourite perches. This Youngest Brother has talent, no? Skills and an eye, in fact. I'll have to get a photo of his dorm room—I've known 4-bedroom houses without an ounce of the style.

teatowel aprons from the Mother

The Mother and I creepily often think along the same wavelenth, and here's proof: I made her an apron for Christmas, and she made me one. We seem to have each other's fabric preferences down pretty well. She also made an apron for the Other, but they're pictured kind of lifelessly here, since we're still trying to work off our holiday weight (we put it all on during the holidays, honest). We now understand the Mother's reluctance to broadcast her aproned waistline to all the world.

eyeball pincushion from the Mother

I've been using and loving the cheesy pincushion the Mother made me last Christmas, and this year she made a little sister to go in my hand-sewing box. She used a pattern in Pretty Little Pincushions, and while the bloodshot eye is little, I don't know that it'd qualify under most people's definition of pretty. No matter; I for one find it imminently satisfying to stab an eyeball with pins and needles. I flipped through the pincushions book a bit, and there are plenty of other cool ones in there too (which you might like better if you're a pretty kind of person).

So how cool is it to have such a creative and talented family? Well, ask the Father and the Other, who all Christmas had to suffer through endless quilting conversations and deal with the Mother, Youngest Brother, and me bickering over who got which sewing machine ("No, I want the Viking!" "No, use the Pfaff!" "Yes, it sews like a knife through butter, but there's no thread cutter!" If my parents don't want me to move back in, they'd better keep me away from the Mother's sewing machines). But we could be into drugs or Hello Kitty! or gambling instead of sewing, so perhaps they should consider themselves lucky. On the other hand, we could be a family with normal things in common, like football or something. And I think the Father, the Other, and all the rest of us would take sewing over football any day.

Oh, by the way! You have the Mother and Father to thank for the improved photos here on the blog. As if all the stuff above wasn't enough, they bought the Other and me a new Canon Powershot SX100 IS! It's a huge, huge improvement over my old, outdated camera—thanks!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

EQ6 keyboard shortcuts

One of the slightly annoying things about EQ6 for people who've used pro design software like QuarkXPress or Adobe Illustrator is the lack of keyboard shortcuts. Sure, there are some key commands (the help file and tips of the day list some), but it's hard to keep straight what the Ctrl key does when you're drawing a Bezier curve (turns it into a line segment), drawing a rectangle (makes it a square), or coloring a one-patch quilt (colors a whole line of patches).

But I wanted the to poke keys for everything EQ6 does! Rarely able to resist a tinkering challenge, I called AutoHotkey to the rescue. Now whenever I run EQ6, I run my AutoHotkey script too (you can download it below), adding the following keyboard shortcuts to the program:
  • Alt+B: Change to block worktable
  • Alt+Q: Change to quilt worktable

  • Alt+N: New horizontal quilt/EasyDraw block (depending on which worktable is active)
  • Alt+Shift+N: New on-point quilt/PatchDraw block
  • Ctrl+Alt+N: New variable point quilt/PatchDraw motif

  • P: Print quilt
  • Shift+P: Print fabric yardage
  • Ctrl+P: Print block
  • Ctrl+Shift+P: Print templates
  • Ctrl+Alt+P: Print rotary cutting sheet

  • Ctrl+B: Open Block Library
  • Ctrl+F: Open Fabric Library
  • Ctrl+L: Open Layout Library

  • + [plus sign on the number pad]: Add block/quilt to sketchbook (when viewing the worktable)
  • - [minus sign on the number pad]: Show sketchbook (same as F8)

  • Alt+Z: Suspend (or reactivate) hotkeys (to enter appliqué text etc. without triggering the commands)
If you already have AutoHotkey or are curious about the source code, download the script here. But even without AutoHotkey, you can run the script as a stand-alone executable. Whichever version you download, just double-click on the file to run it. The commands should only fire in EQ6 (unless you're looking at a web page with "EQ6" in the title; I'll fix this when I have a chance).

The key commands are free to use and adjust to your own preferences. PatchDraw tools are top on the updates list, along with better commands for starting fresh blocks and quilts—I'll upload new versions whenever I have 'em.

Hopefully other people will find the shortcuts useful—just being able to switch worktables without the mouse gives me a practically unholy delight every time!

The keyboard icon overlaid onto the EQ6 icon above comes from famfamfam.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Christmas catch-up: what I gave

gifts under the tree

For apologies on the belated Christmas report, see here. (Extra apologies to Middle Brother, who I still haven't shipped to—bad Feed Dog!) On to the what kept me busy last month....

Jabba the Hutt and his prisoner

What, I thought, would be a more romantic gift for the Other than a stuffed Jabba the Hutt toy? We've been known to invoke the name of the Hutt when we're feeling especially piggish, full, or otherwise gluttonous, and I do a mean impression of his laugh on a semi-regular basis; the Other appreciates all things felt, so the two were a natural marriage.

Mr Hutt's close-up

I sketched out a pattern in EQ6 (surprisingly well-suited to his bulbous curves), added a gusset for his gut, sewed him together, and gloated over the results to anyone who would listen. I mean, it's a felt Jabba doll! I was disappointed that I couldn't locate a bikini-clad Leia for him, but she does only play a supporting role to His Slugness. The Other was very amused to find Mr Hutt under the tree—for once I managed to not give away what I'd been working on.

apron for the Mother

Feeling my pattern-design energies sapped, I resorted to the Spring 2007 issue of Quilts and More. I combined two of their three apron patterns 'cause I liked the ruffle on one but the rickrack on another. I cleverly left the magazine at home when I went to Jo-Ann, but fortunately the 2 yards of rickrack I bought left me with only 2 inches to spare. Phew! I knew the Mother was in a need of an apron and liked vintage-looking ones, and the fabric was perfect for her kitchen. Nevertheless, she declined to be photographed, so the apron is modelled here by Youngest Brother.

French & Saunders ransom note

Speaking of him, Youngest Brother got my latest appliquéd ransom note, featuring a line from French and Saunders that we love to quote to each other. Dawn French says it as Catherine Spartacus Zeta-Douglas-Jones, Queen of Wales. It's seriously funny, unless you're the Father, who can't understand why the Mother, Youngest Brother, the Other, and I are always shouting "You're just not cutting it, baby!" and other choice bits at one another.

vintage car fabric

That, of course, brings us to the Father. I'd had this car fabric for a while and wanted to make him a necktie, since he's an automotive engineer. Considering how often he wears ties (never) and how often he'd be caught dead in a tie made from this fabric (less than never), I went for slippers, which he's always wearing. I forgot to get a photo of what I whipped together more or less freehand: the cars went over the toes and front of the feet, and the sole was just a few layers of stiff felt. I was worried I'd made them too small, but they seemed to fit the Father. Much to my surprise, he actually seemed to find them warm and fairly functional. But they're definitely not hard-wearing, so we'll see how long they survive.

There's a niggling impulse to wrap up with some comment about homemade gifts being the best expression of love and appreciation and all those heartwarming things (blech), but I tend to think that the best part of making presents is that you can come up with totally weird stuff that may only make sense to the intended recipient. And if you're wondering where I got that idea, stay tuned for my post on the Christmas gifts made for me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Christmas catch-up: stockings

Christmas stockings

I've been known to break out in rants when shops continue playing Christmas music past the holiday, so apologies for continuing the Christmas chatter into January. But I didn't want to give away what I'd made for people before they got their gifts, and I only had spotty Net access whilst travelling.

First, though, have a look at our family stockings (with blogified names). As a kid, I thought everybody who celebrated Christmas had something similar. Everybody in the Mother's family had versions just like this, after all. It was only as I grew up that I came to realize such festive felt creations might be considered tacky. But taste rarely factors into family traditions, and actually, the stockings are kind of at home in my adult aesthetic. Never mind that it wouldn't be Christmas without them.

This year brought new stockings, one for the Other and one for Middle Brother's wife (they spent the holiday elsewhere, so their stockings aren't pictured). The Mother makes them all (except mine, which was made by an aunt), and she actually has near-heraldic guidelines for who gets what images. It's serious business, folks.
  • The Santa head was the Mother's favourite as a kid, and she put it on the Father's stocking when they got married. It would have gone on all of them, but it wasn't on the stocking my aunt made me, so none of my brothers got it either. But our partners do.
  • All the women in the Mother's family had angels (each different) on their stockings. Being a clan abundant in Y chromosomes, our immediate family didn't see the angel again until Mrs Middle Brother entered the picture. The Mother was delighted with the chance to make something pretty for a change. (Apparently the car on the Father's stocking didn't qualify.)
  • Everybody gets a Christmas tree, but they're all different. I believe they're all embellished with sequins and beads, though only the Father was lucky enough to get gold rickrack. Perhaps a joke on his intolerance of tinsel?
  • The Mother's dog, Mazie (whose stocking shows the real lettering), gets jingle bells not just because they're seasonal, but also because she rings a bell hanging from the doorknob to ask to go outside. No kidding.
The older stockings have had to be repaired several times after being stuffed annually with such delights as candy, deodorant, socks, and more personal odds and ends. It used to be Santa Claus who filled the stockings, but once he stopped visiting, we filled them for each other. For a few Christmases in high school, Middle Brother and I subjected everyone to the tackiest fillers we could find at the dollar store, which I believe included an "I ♥ Michigan" mug for the Mother, who doesn't. We were charming, thoughtful youths, us.

More Christmas catch-up on stuff I made and stuff made for me to come soon.