Cam’s quilt

I completed my first non-rag quilt for my nephew’s high school graduation. The kind of quilt where cutting straight and sewing straight matters. I asked Cam to pick four coordinating colors (without knowing why) and he said black, white, dark blue, and bright green. Not my color pallet, but they do look pretty man-ish together – though for a while there I was concerned that I was making a giant modern baby boy blanket with the white in there:/

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The big chunks were cut to 8×30″, the mediums were 6×20″, and the smallest were 4×10″. I just kind of laid them out until no color touched itself and no seams were connected between rows and sewed them into rows of at least 80″. After I had all the rows sewn together, I trimmed the sides. Using actual math to calculate each row would have been helpful in lining them up and not wasting fabric, but I tend to just jump in with excitement and go with it. In the end, it worked, eh?

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My neighbor/step-mom-in-law Joyce has a quilting machine so she helped me with that part of the process. We picked a geometric design to favor a young man’s preference. She is still kind of new at it, but we got through the kinks well enough for me!

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I binded it by hand, and that was by far my favorite part (though black is not easy on the eyes, even at my age!). I really like hand sewing – in fact, had there been time, I would have possibly tried to quilt the whole thing by hand as well! I used this tutorial to figure out what I was doing there.

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I learned many things. For instance, a walking foot is handy to own and I should probably seek one out (I simply reset the foot and fabric every couple of inches when it was time to sew the binding on – you can’t even tell). Oh, and I’ve joined my quilting aunt in the “fabric snob” club. The black and green fabrics were Kona, but the white and blue were off-brands. There is such a difference in feel, cutting, ironing, stitching, and washing – I washed the whole thing before giving it to him (out of fear that some of my work would unravel immediately) and already the two off-brand fabrics pilled up. Terrible.

I also didn’t take any photos really, so this is all I got. Whoops! Thankfully my sister-in-law sent one of the finished product.

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Skull pillow

I am back from Mexico and will post about that trip some day, but first I wanted to share with you something I whipped up yesterday. I’ve been invited to go analyze some skeletons discovered by a road construction project and it reminded me that I wanted to make some skull pillows. These are useful for nestling a human skull so that it can be analyzed – while you may not understand the importance of doing such a thing, the remains have already been disturbed by modern construction, and it is crucially important to certain groups (such as many Native American populations) to know whether or not the individuals are their ancestors. If so, they will be repatriated to the appropriate tribe for the proper ceremonies to take place; if not, they will be reinterred elsewhere in a place hopefully to not be disturbed again. This is why I do skeletal analysis.

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The first order of business is to cut out some circles. I use a stack of pre-cut white circles that my gramma bought and gifted me, and a tupperware container as a guide for the larger circles. This pattern went through a couple of prototypes about a year ago, but I seem to have not taken any photos of that mess. This process seems to work ok though, for those of you who may do bioarchaeology or know someone who handles human skulls… Let’s be real: probably no one who reads this post will find it useful, but at least I have a record here for the next time I might need to make one.

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Next, I fold one of the large circles into a quarter and use a glass to trace around. The glass happens to fit over the white circles with a quarter-inch allowance, so it is the perfect tool for this step. I just line of the center of the glass to the corner of the folded fabric and give it a whirl with my marking pencil.

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Unfold, line up the glass to the line, and complete the circle. I did this on both sides of the same fabric, which will come in handy later.

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Then, place the two large circles right-sides together. Sew around, leaving a fairly wide opening so that you can complete the stuffing later. To sew a fairly perfect circle, I held a pin poked into the center of the circle to hold the fabric as the machine sewed (at the white dot in the image below the next). Clip the allowance, being careful to not clip through the seam.

Before turning out, align the two inner circles and pin them to the center of one side of the fabric. A single pin is better than the photo below (taken before I realized this) because you need to be mindful of how the pin is facing in order to remove it once you turn everything out – place the head of the pin pointing at the seam opening of the big circles. Make sense? Don’t do what I did here! (Marking the inner circles is also unnecessary.)

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This is where that marked line on both sides of the fabric comes in handy. First – re-pin the inner circle from the outside (now right-side). Using the same trick mentioned above, with a pin holding the fabric in place against the machine (just hold it with your fingers vertically), sew a circle in the center of the big circles, but leave a small opening in the same direction as the big opening in the big circles.

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Now, it gets a little tricky but not difficult. Using a tiny funnel, fill the inner circle with weighted fill – I use spoonfuls of rice but I heard this might not be the best choice if you are worried about vermin of any kind. This part probably doesn’t even need to be weighted, but it gives a bit of a heft to the pillow, which makes it feel like it will protect the skull more. Emotions trump knowledge, right? Otherwise, you could fill it with stuffing – the important part is that you want the center of the pillow to be sunken so that a skull doesn’t roll off it. Kapish?

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Only fill the rice bag about ⅔-¾ full, and pin all the rice to one side. Stick it back under the machine and complete the inner circle stitch. Using small wads of stuffing, stuff the donut-part of the pillow somewhere between medium and fully stuffed. Hand stitch the closure and voila!

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I just used some left-over fabric laying around that kind of sort of went together. You can have fun with the fabric choices, but it should be a fabric that is not too rough (some bone is quite delicate) and not too weak (which will become yucky with bone bits and frays).

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And obviously, my circle-stuffing skills could use a little work!

Another trip south

I have been crafting a quilt for my nephew (he is graduating high school already!), which you will see if it does not shame me by the time I am finished since it is the first non-rag quilt, and it is quite large, and I made up the pattern myself, and, and, and…

However, I am posting to say that crafting is belayed, once again, as I visit my brother, also once again but this time in Mexico. Here is the plan, minus the southern most stop (we had to cut that out as my trip time got cut to two weeks only).

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I leave Monday!

Maya the cat

Howdy! Gosh, been a while, hasn’t it?

My semester is wrapping up and I am buzzing with excitement. I haven’t gotten to have casual fun since last April. That is over twelve months ago! I jumped into an archaeological project over the summer, then hopped right into a visiting lectureship in the fall and have barely been able to breathe. I’ll save all that for my other blog though. Summer is coming, and with it, I foresee many crafty posts in the relatively near future!

Anywho, Maya is my oldest cat – she’s getting to be quite the old lady round here (she is 12); sometimes, she gets constipated. I don’t know why, it’s just who she is. Once, she even had a kitty enema. True story. Back in March, she was super duper straining and we almost took her to the ER vet late one night because she was also crying out which was unusual for her. While Boy was on the phone with them, she happened to finally pass the giganto turd, so we avoided the emergency. She already had a vet scheduled for the following week, and so the doc checked her out, recognized she was dehydrated, gave her some fluids, and we went on our merry way.

But then, I noticed she had this little flappy lump on her belly, near where I imagined her intestines to be so I got pretty worried. Boy tried to make me wait it out – he assumed it was in her intestines and it would pass – but from what little I know of anatomy, it seemed like a hernia to me. So, I took her in again and the doc concurred. This appointment, I hated. Boy was down and out with the flu and I always make him come with me, the reasons being two-fold: 1) he asks me a lot of questions after the visit that I can’t always answer since I didn’t think to ask and 2) moral support. Who likes to see their little ones stressed out and hear bad news, eh? But, not only did I hate the visit since I was alone, but also because the doc urged me to schedule her surgery for the next morning. The same day I was leaving for a week-long dig four hours south.

And, Boy was still sick, so I dropped her off that morning. Waited to pick her up that afternoon, then couldn’t get myself to leave my sneezing Sasha (oh yeah, that was a thing, too), my sick husband, and my just-had-major-surgery Maya. Only, it wasn’t a hernia either! It was a dark mass! So, the doc did exploratory surgery, determined it was likely a lymph node, which was also attached to one of her mammary glands, so for the sake of future issues, he also gave her a kitty mastectomy – surprise! And here I was, ditching my entire sick family for a week into archaeological happiness.

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Boy took care of her while I was gone and kept me posted on her progress. It sounded terrible. He assures me it was better that I was gone because since I am her person, and I would be unable to help her, my guilt and worry would have been worse than it was already. At first, she had to wear a little shirt. She hated it.

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When she started feeling a little more energetic, she did everything she could to get the shirt off, so Boy stuck her in a hood that flopped up and down, depending on how she rubbed her face into things (as you can see by the lack of base boards, we *still* haven’t completed our house remodeling). Boy had to take her in to get the drainage and stitches removed, and get her some more pain meds. Doc said everything was progressing nicely.

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The shirt came off and she was super duper happy but then she started licking her wound like crazy so the hood remained. We even had to get her some medicated cream to soothe her skin. That’s when I got home. She hated me. Well, of course hate is a strong word, but she really didn’t like me. She was comforted by Sasha though. Boy even said that while I was away, she would cry a lot until he let Sasha in the same room. The doc suggested keeping them apart, and keeping Maya from jumping – ha! Keep a cat from jumping?! – so we had set up the craft room with some deterrents from jumping on tall areas and we moved in one of the litter boxes and her food and water. But she was so sad, Boy said, that when he let Sasha in, they would curl up and Maya would finally get some rest.

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Slowly, as her little peach fuzz furr grew back, she started licking less and less, and finally became the Maya she was. I mean, she even just looked plain goofy sometimes.

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The doc sent her tissues away for a biopsy and it took a while to get the results because that person ended up sending them on to yet another specialist just to be sure. The lymph node specialist declared it all benign. Some type of lymphatic hypoplasia, that could be a pre-cancerous situation, but unlikely. More likely, it was just a funky lymph node that went a little bit crazy and couldn’t stop itself. Anything with the cancer word, though, is scary, so I fully approve of the doc taking extra precautions and removing the mammary gland too. Essentially, she has a clean bill of health! And sure enough, she acts like it – refusing to let me have a moment’s peace without her.

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Winter floral arrangement

I attended another floral workshop this week for a winter outdoor arrangement. Our pots were already filled with dirt, and our greenery kit awaited us. We got to pick out two packets of adornment (everything from a natural look to full-on glitter, from sticks and pinecones to feathery balls and christmas faire). I went non-traditional in that I was the only person to select something glitter-free and purple (a type of dyed holly maybe?) rather than glittery golds, reds, whites, or blues, though I did add some bronze-y glittered pinecones. I thought it would look rather popping with my red house.

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The shopkeeps ran through a demo that made it look as easy as slicing butter. When it was my turn to begin, I looked at my sorted pile of greenery (from biggest and sturdiest to smallest and floppiest); I felt rather uncertain with what to do with it. I reminded myself that this happened to me last time, and at the end of that venture, I had what I felt was a pretty awesome arrangement so I kept making fresh stem cuts, kept scraping off the last few inches of each branch, and pushed them into my pot, waiting for the tide to turn into pleasant surprise. The shopkeeps came around every once in a while with tips and encouragement as we dined on snacks, drank wines, and pretended we knew what we were doing.

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To me, floral arrangements seem to be like tubing behind a boat. When you stay in the wake, it is pretty boring, so you fight and fight to pop out outside of the wake, and sometimes you are so tired you aren’t sure you can make it (my memories of this come from when I was a kid – I wonder how easily this actually might be now as an adult!). And then you do, and it’s rough waters, and you aren’t sure why you like spray in your face and bouncing around like a die in Yatzi any more than a relaxing ride behind a boat. So you pop back over to where calmer waters await and have a sense of happiness that you overcame that trial, and you are content.

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For me, this runs parallel to my two experiences of making a floral pot. Pushing things into dirt seems easy enough, then it becomes a jungle mess that you can’t appreciate so you keep plodding through wondering why you are even making the attempt, and eventually it begins to come together, and then you spruce it up, and voila! You have a beautiful arrangement. How did that happen?

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I’ve decided that I enjoy these workshops and will likely keep attending. I kind of wish there was one a month, though I obviously would not always have time for that. It was a nice little creative getaway for me, since I haven’t been able to do anything imaginative for quite some time now. Looking forward to next summer, I tell you what!

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