Sewing fail

oh this is sooo funny! I bought this pair of mitten liners for $1.00 at a garage sale.

mitten liners fated to be given away

the mitten liners-I liked the way they were made.

Nice easy pattern to copy and make covers for them. Which I did, using a thick wool skirt from the transfer station.

Oops… they came out looking like hotpads!

red mittens that look like potholders

well, it was a good try! Note that you can’t click on these for a larger image or go to my flickr site; nope, not saving this photo for posterity :-)

I still like the pattern but I am going to resize it for my smaller hands and make another set of mittens with some windblock polar fleece and line them with regular polar fleece.

One of those times for “live and learn”!
The mitten liners? I think I’m going to give them to someone with bigger hands!

J.K. Rowling on failure: “It’s impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” from a Life Hacker┬ápost on Google+.

This is also a reminder to myself that sometimes you can’t fix it. I had a couple of semi-painful experiences at work in the last few days; when I went to apologize, that almost made the incident worse. Sometimes it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the other person’s headspace. Can’t fix that-that’s something they have to fix. Learn to leave it alone and just go on. Ignore their *&^!# and just smile at them next time. I can write about the incident in my journal and clear it out of my own head, and maybe that’s the best that I can do. More of the “live and learn” lesson!

Newest hat!

This hat was supposed to go to the Hoffman Challenge in July. But, of course, I didn't get it finished in time. Ah well, next year! It was still fun to make and while I want to make some adjustments to the next version of this pattern, I do like it. I'm planning on using it for the challenge next year! I don't expect to win-a hat just isn't elaborate enough-but want to do it for the experience.

I tried a new pattern for this hat, Bow Bonnet from Timber Lane Press. I don't think the pattern is available any more; however, I did find one available on Etsy (September 2013). The directions are a little funky, so this is not a pattern I would recommend for beginners.

The band around the hat makes it super easy to have a nice clean finish and I will be incorporating this into all my hats. Not sure just how I will do that yet, so there'll be some experimenting in my future. The other thing I like about the band, is that it keeps the brim from flipping up in the wind. I use heavy fishing line in a casing at the edge of the brim, and in the wind, my brims flip up and a) look stupid, and b) you lose the sun shade.

I also want to adjust the bow; the bow tie isn't long enough for my taste. I've had a hard adjusting the bow tie to get the hat as snug as I would like, so I want to make the ties longer with the elastic set deeper inside the band. A minor adjustment though, so I can get that fixed easily. I might use a plain piece of elastic instead of the bow; it would be easy to set that into the band. But I sorta like the bow-makes the hat “girlie”.

So you'll be seeing more of this pattern in the near (I hope!) future!



Bethel Community Fair

Well, I didn’t get anything into the Palmer fair (Alaska State Fair), but I did manage to enter five things in the Bethel Community Fair, and six photos. First time for photos! I was pleased with my entries, but only my embroidery got a ribbon. In some ways a small fair is tougher than a big one. There are fewer entries to judge, but the judges have less experience and it’s a lot of work for them.

embroidered butterfly

Here’s the butterfly that won the class award. Select the image to see more fair photos.

The other thing that makes it hard to judge is that every entry is really good! I was not surprised at that; people just aren’t going to show their stuff off if it’s not really good, when everyone will know it was you that entered that dorky shirt, even if it was your first sewing project and you should be really proud of yourself! So only the very best stuff gets to the fair. I thought all the photos were very good quality; I was glad I didn’t have to judge them!

I did judge the fruits and vegetables. And that was hard! Everyone did a nice job of preparing their vegetables (and one fruit-a tomato) for the fair. The only problem I had with some of the vegies, was that all the outer leaves were left on. I thought they should be displayed as “ready to eat”, and trimmed. I also would have liked a little more information than “onion” as far as what kind of vegetable it was. And you can bet I am going to find out more about judging vegetables before next year! It was a great experience and I’m looking forward to next year.

Bethel Community Fair

The fruit and vegetables I judged

I will also write more about my own entries. Like what pattern I used (or didn’t use), what was my inspiration, that kind of thing. I also hope I’m a more active participant in helping run the fair next year. I felt so crappy and tired from a cold and didn’t have the energy to do much. Friday night was the talent show-me, I was asleep! Saturday afternoon, berry picking contest-me, I was napping! Saturday evening there was a great concert-me, I was asleep! I was sure glad to have Becky keep me company; she’s a great napper/sleeper!

So to next year! Bigger and Better and More Energy!

Becky has arrived!

Becky arrived in Bethel on Saturday, August 17. She is a joy to have around! She's quiet and calm but has plenty of spunk for walking and playing. She has a solemn little judge face when she is sitting still and waiting for a walk outside or for a portrait.

I got a tennis ball out for her and she loves it! She'll chase it and find it and then grip it with her teeth and not let go. But finally she'll relax and let me throw it. She also loves her rawhide and we play fetch with that too. Her rubber chicken is fading in popularity; before coming to Bethel that was her favorite toy, but now I think she loves first her rawhide, then her tennis ball.

We walk in the evenings after work; she's an enthusiastic walker! She makes me walk fast! No lingering over smells for her or exploring every little bit of detritus. She's on a mission to meet and greet the population of Bethel.

Look at her little teeth! Isn't that the cutest little smile? She's right off the airplane at the ERA terminal in this photo. You can tell I'm glad to be holding that little bundle of joy!

I am just in love with this puppy; she's perfect! I was worried that it was too soon to be getting a new puppy, that I'd compare her to Harpo and she wouldn't measure up-but all my worries were groundless. I adore this little girl! She is a sweet companion, snuggling up on the couch when I read/sew/work on the iPad and at bedtime. She leaps into her kennel when it's time for me to go to work (though I still wish I could bring her!). She loves to play but happily gives it up when I get busy and can't toss the ball or her chicken.

Becks is adamant about her bedtime. The other night I was working on my history class homework (just finished up my Alaska Native History course that I took over the summer) and she sat there staring at me. It finally clicked that Becky must need to go out, so we went and pottied. She came back in, jumped up on the couch and settled herself next to me and fell sound asleep. I looked at the clock and sure enough, it was just a few minutes past 9 p.m. Linda, the woman I got Becky from, said she would do that, and I didn't really believe her. But she repeated that performance again last night-played hard until a few minutes before 9, we went out and pottied, and after coming back in, she jumped up on the couch again and crashed while I sewed.

I don't think she likes my sewing <lol>. She tries to chew on my project or the thread when I pick up my embroidery! She's very gentle about it-never leaves any spit or teeth marks-but it takes a bit to discourage her, until she'll finally let me sew. She doesn't play tug-o-war or chew hard or grab the piece, just gently mouths it.

I feel really lucky to have gotten this Boston. Linda is a breeder in Palmer, AK, and because Becky had gotten too big to show successfully in Alaska, she needed to re-home her. I found this out through my friend Roxanne, who owns Holy Dog Pet Boarding in Fairbanks, where I used to take Harpo for daycare. Linda was a bit concerned about the way Harpo passed on, but once she spoke to me, felt that with me was where Becky belonged. Becky has been through all the Boston health checks (and I need to get the list from Linda); she's had her Rabies shot; is spayed (I had her spayed before she came to Bethel); has a microchip; and she's had basic obedience training. And she's only 7 months old! So I feel like I got the steal of the century. Linda could have sold this puppy, but she gave her to me. Gave. Her. To. Me. Can you imagine?? Now you know why I am the luckiest woman in Alaska!

Fantastic week!!

playing strip poker

playing strip poker at the quilt retreat

Two weeks ago, I went to a weekend quilt retreat just around the corner from my little red house in Bethel. I had a great time sewing, playing games, taking photos, and shooting people with a water gun. We played strip poker, which is NOT what you think! Strips of fabric, you goof! And it’s super fun and easy. We had 3 die, labeled L, R, C, and with a dot. You start with three strips, and roll 3 die. Rolling dots means you get to keep your strips, an L or an R mean you have to hand a strip left or right, and C means the strip goes in the center and is out of play. The die move around the table to the sound of groans and gleeful laughter as people lose or gain strips of fabric until only one person is left with a pile of strips. The first time I just watched, convinced I didn’t need any more fabric and it would be just as fun to watch. Wrong! It’s way more fun to play! Whether I needed the fabric or not-and I won the second game!
Alison (in the yellow and orange blouse) and Barb (not in the photo) organized the weekend, with lots of good food, some squirt guns, fabric and tool drawings, and lots of time to sew on your own project. I’ll take pictures of what I worked on tomorrow; sorry, I keep forgetting to do that!
The main thing is, the weekend made me realize how depressed I’d been, and it knocked me out of my depression. Or the depression out of me… something anyway! I got my mojo back and started enjoying life again! Last weekend I was supposed to go to a recycled clothing class, but it didn’t go, so I spent the weekend getting some projects finished up. Now I have a new hat for the Palmer fair, two very late birthday presents packed up and shipped out, and started two challenge projects!

Becky is moving to Bethel! Click on the picture to see more photos of Becky.

It also made me realize that it was time for a new puppy. I still really miss Harpo. I miss her company and coming home at lunch time to let her out and snuggling with her when I can’t sleep.

So I put the word out, and Becky is moving to Bethel as soon as she is spayed! Becky is six months old, and almost as big as Harpo was. She’s a little stockier than Harpo, and a little shorter, so I think Harpo’s snowsuits will fit her. Becky is a show dog, but she grew too much to show well in Alaska, so her owner wanted to find a new home for her. And I am the lucky duck to get her!

My friend Roxanne, from Holy Dog Pet Boarding, where I used to take Harpo for daycare in Fairbanks, put me in touch with Becky’s owner, Linda Cooper-Cunningham. After a longish, fun conversation with Linda last night, we ended with her agreeing to ship Becky to me in Bethel. Linda is taking her to the vet in Palmer, to get her spayed, and a rabies shot and health certificate. Becky has been crated at night, so she’s used to it, she’s also had some obedience training, and she’s housebroken. So some angel is looking out for me and realizes that I am a terrible dog trainer! Not that Harpo was a bad girl, but she could have used a couple of sessions with Miss Manners. I tend to spoil my dogs rotten…

As if that wasn’t enough… I bought two shelving units from the University surplus sale a couple weeks ago, and Ron, our maintenance man, had time to deliver them today. Both units needed to be trimmed to get into the house, so Ron trimmed the tops and reinserted the top shelves so I could get them into the house. Then he brings me to his house and fills a cooler full of silver salmon for me! I spent the evening cutting up and wrapping fish for the freezer, and enjoyed a fresh salmon steak for dinner.

So can ya beat that for the week from heaven!? Got my mojo back, I’ve had a great time, gotten stuff done, I have a pile of salmon, new shelves, AND a new dog! Can life get any better??!

Going upriver to Akiak


loading the boat to go upriver on the Kuskokwim to Akiak

I got to go to Akiak on Wednesday! My first river trip, my first village, and the first time I drove in Bethel! And a quick fyi-I’ll be doing some updating tomorrow, to link the photos to my Flickr account. Done!

The big occasion was to take two musicians to entertain and visit with the villagers in Akiak. Mike Stevens, a world class harmonica player (best in the world. really.), and Raymond McLain were in Fairbanks for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, and Terese Kaptur, the director, had the great idea to share some of the artists with outlying communities. That’s how they got to Bethel. Mike requested a trip to a village, and that’s how I got to go to Akiak.


Sally Russell

My supervisor, Sally Russell, was the head honcho for all the festival activities in Bethel, and when I heard she was taking the musicians to Akiak, I asked if she needed any help. She was happy to have me come along, mostly so I could visit a village and see first-hand some of the difficulties of living there.


Ron Kaiser

Ron Kaiser, the KuC maintenance man, was our guide and boat captain on the way to Akiak. He’s a very experienced boatman and fisherman, and I learned a lot about the river from him. He packed the boat for us and did a great job of guiding. It was a little damp on the way up; the weather was cool and cloudy, and there was occasional mist, but still a good trip. The river is quite a bit different than the Tanana and Chatanika Rivers that I’m familiar with. Sandy muddy beaches with lots of alder and willow. We didn’t see any spruce til we got close to Akiak, and then it was only the occasional tree sticking out above the alders and willows.


Mike Williams

Mike Williams, one of the village leaders, was our contact in Akiak. He picked us up from the boat and hauled all the gear to the community center. He was happy to let me and Todd Paris, the official UAF photographer, take photos of the performance, the audience, and Akiak.


Broken Record, the band that Steve and Raymond played with

I didn’t get the band members’ names, but the group is called Broken Record, a misnomer. They’re excellent musicians, and worked well with Mike and Raymond. I couldn’t tell that they’d never practiced with Mike and Raymond! It was a wonderful concert; I love bluegrass music and it was fantastic to be in the front row listening to these guys!


Simon Goldstein

We were also graced with an accordian player, Simon Goldstein. You can listen to him at Soundcloud. Simon is working at Meyers Farm this summer, and I’m not quite sure how he hooked up with us, but he came along to help with the sound system. He’s a young man with a lot of energy; he’s going to be starting a farm of his own to supply Alaska with fresh vegies.


Dancing in Akiak

I spent most of my time in Akiak listening, and enjoying watching the dancers. Boy, there are some dancers in Akiak! I have never seen a group of people that could dance so well. Even the youngsters could dance. I really wanted to dance, but was a little shy about getting out there on the floor. I don’t step near as nicely as these folks do!


Julie and Friend

The kids in Akiak were a hoot! They were so friendly and polite and loved the cameras. Todd and I both had fun playing with them, taking pictures, and just interacting with them. I was brave enough to let them play with my camera for a little bit, and they took some really good pictures! I’d love to see them get to do some photojournalism, and document village activities and their own lives.


community center parking lot

I also spent a little time walking around Akiak, just to see what it was like. I was very impressed; it’s much cleaner and neater than Bethel. Someone works hard to keep this community in good shape. Seemed like most everyone has a four wheeler instead of a car or pickup, judging by the number of them parked outside the community center. Not too many dogs either; a couple of small village dogs running around, but I didn’t see any sled teams and only a couple of tethered dogs. Pretty late in the season for drying salmon, but there was a rack hanging down by the river.

The afternoon was concluded with a snack of dried salmon and dried hooligan (or smelt), crackers and cookies, and some spaghetti. Mike Williams spoke a little bit about the difficulties of suicide, and then asked several of the elders to give some advice to the young people. Mike Stevens then talked briefly about an experience he had in a village in Labrador, Canada, when he saw some kids sniffing gas. It changed his life, and he started a program to bring musical instruments to the villages. Earlier in the afternoon, Mike Stevens shared harmonicas with the kids in the village. Lastly, we handed out some door prizes.

The door prizes were really fun! I got to be the announcer, because I had my glasses with me and could read the tickets. We had berry buckets, tee shirts, vegies, I donated one of my small quilts, and there was an iPad mini to give out. I really got into it, and was making little silly comments about the prizes. Like the vegies-I expressed the hope that some single guy would get them and he could fix a dinner for his sweetheart.

We all had a great time! Mike and Ray are very personable, very down to earth. They are both world class musicians and we were very lucky that they were willing to essentially donate their talent to the people of Bethel and Akiak. They hove to when we were loading and unloading the boat, and were incredibly friendly and easy to talk to. And oh yes, my first time to drive in Bethel was to take them to lunch a couple of days after our Akiak trip.

Mike Williams took us all back to Bethel, and in contrast to our dampish trip upriver, going home was sunny and warm. We unloaded the boat and headed to the River Cafe for dinner, and then home to bed. Mike and Ray must have an incredible amount of energy; they were so busy in Bethel and Akiak, and never had an afternoon to just hang and rest up. After leaving Bethel, they were both off to more traveling. I don’t know how they do it!

My first qaspeq


My first qaspeq/kuspuk

I made my first kuspuk last weekend! It’s a style I hadn’t seen before; I’d planned to make one with a ruffled skirt, but when I saw it the shop, I had to have this one. It’s more like a winter parka than a kuspuk, which is why I chose this pattern. It’s one that Jeanne devised herself, so I can’t use it to make kuspuks to sell-but I wouldn’t anyway. Production sewing just isn’t my thing.

Kuspuks are a lightweight overshirt that a lot of the Native women, well, everyone really, wears. They can be as fancy or as plain as you like and there are all kinds of styles. The main ingredients are a simple pullover with long sleeves, a pocket, and a hood; after that, it’s fair game. Some of them are just barely waist-length, some have a pleated skirt, some have a ruffled skirt, you can trim them with rickrack or embroidered braid or bias tape or no trim at all. Mary made hers with puffy sleeves and a fairly snug cuff, but you can use elastic in the cuff too. The skirted kuspuks can come almost to your knees or be much shorter; all the styling is up to the maker. Each village has their own basic style, but with variations. Since I’m not a villager, I don’t feel constrained-I can do whatever I want.

Well, I should start at the beginning! I saw the class advertised at Raven Quilts a couple of weeks ago, and my friend Mary said we should take the class together. Sounded like fun to me! So we paid for our class and made plans to head to the shop together. I gathered up some fabric; some horse fabric I’d intended to use for a quilt many years ago. Oh well, nothing like repurposing!

Jeanne Acton taught the class. She is an excellent seamstress and incredibly energetic. She was doing about three things at once the whole time. Teaching the class of five, helping Kate with running the long arm quilter (a quilting machine) and advising the girl running the shop. I learned a lot about cutting and sewing more efficiently. We all made our own patterns, although I didn’t make mine until after I was finished; I used Jeanne’s pattern.

Both Mary and I were thrilled to finish our kuspuks, or qaspeqs is the way its spelled in Bethel. Mary was particularly pleased, as she doesn’t think she’s a very experienced seamstress. You could have fooled me! She did a great job on her kuspuk! I love the way she trimmed it.

I have another pattern that I was going to use, but Jeanne’s pattern is so simple, I’ll probably use it again. There’s only two main pieces, the sleeves and the pocket. Really fast to put together! And I can use it to make a winter parka too. There’s a quilter’s weekend retreat next weekend… maybe I should make another kuspuk… I really like the first one I made; it’s super comfortable!